That’s why Weyandt, the 2016 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference coach of the year, makes sure hitting drills are as challenging as possible at Division III Hamline University in St. Paul — even in the offseason.
“Why not teach these guys with a drill (that) if you’re successful three times out of 10, you’re pretty good,” said Weyandt, a former collegiate first baseman.
That explains why Weyandt and the Pipers’ coaching staff often crank their pitching machine up to 90 mph, as part of his “angle drill.”
The angle drill, which can also be useful for youths, forces players to hit the ball in the middle of the field, from gap to gap. Weyandt sets up the drill by having right-handed hitters turn their body toward the shortstop, in an off-set batting stance. Pitches will appear as if they’re going to hit batters in their back leg, due to the atypical batting stance utilized.
But, despite the initial awkwardness hitters might feel during the angle drill, the exercise has clear benefits. Mainly, the drill trains hitters to get the bat’s barrel behind the ball. Another version of the angle drill (in which the pitches come in from an angle) can be seen in this video.
Weyandt has used the angle drill in the past with high school-aged players during camps, and he witnessed drastic improvement in hitters over time.
“It really just forces you to get your barrel flat and in the hitting zone,” the college coach noted of the drill. “It really teaches kids timing and barrel-awareness, and those are the two most important things to hitting. If you’re never on time and don’t know where your barrel is, you’re never gonna be successful.”
The Angle Drill certainly doesn’t require a state-of-the-art pitching machine, either. Youth coaches can run the drill by using tees or flips, if they wish. Regardless of any tweaks that might be made to the drill, the exercise will challenge hitters at any level, and get them to avoid simply trying to pull every pitch they face.
“The first couple weeks are rough,” Weyandt noted, in reference to implementing the angle drill. “My freshmen are doing these drills, and they’re struggling. And it’s no different with high school kids. … (But) you see them just get better and better, and get more confident.”
Obviously, there are countless pitching and fielding drills that can be utilized to hone one’s game in the offseason, too. But, above all else, Weyandt believes in having his position players and pitchers slowly but surely building their arm strength in the offseason. Hamline’s pitchers, for example, take one month off from throwing after the conclusion of their season, before occasional flat-pen sessions that might last just 15 minutes.
“I think,” said Weyandt, “the game of catch for everybody is the most important thing in the game of baseball — being able to throw and pitch the ball.
“How often are you playing catch and handling the ball?” the Hamline coach continued. “How serious are you taking that? Because that’s where you’re going to separate yourself from the other kids at your age. So that’s very key.”