Hitting a baseball can sometimes feel like a game of chance, especially at the younger levels. But it doesn’t have to be that way, according to Steve Tickel, a junior varsity coach at Aurora Christian School in Illinois.
Tickel, who has been coaching youth baseball for nearly a decade, emphasizes that players as young as seven years old should be paying attention to pitch location and learning where to aim their hits based on the pitch and the game situation.
One key, Tickel said, is that hitters should know the ideal pitch location to wait for based on the runner scenario.
For example, if a left-handed hitter gets a pitch outside with nobody on base, Tickel advises the batter to aim for a hit to the third-base side of the field. Similarly, on an inside pitch the batter should try to turn on the pitch and get the bat around as quickly as possible.
“You want to take it to right field,” Tickel said.
Although, as any coach knows, it’s rarely that simple.
“With a kid on second or third, you are trying to advance them one base, you want to hit it on the ground to the opposite side,” Tickel said. “Hitting deep to score them also works.”
On some occasions, bunting is the right call.
“Sometimes if we have one of our weaker hitters, we will ask him to bunt to move a runner,” Tickel said. “Whether it’s from first to second, second to third, or third to home — if we have a kid that can lay down a good bunt and a player that can beat the throw to home.”
Like with hitting, Tickel coaches his players to strategically aim their bunts, not just stick their bat out and hope for the best.
So if a runner is on third, Tickel tells his player to try to bunt up the first-base line. Same if a runner is on second.
“If a guy is on first you can bunt to either side,” Tickel said, “just not to the pitcher if you can help it.”
The goal is to bunt to the first or second baseman so that someone has to cover the bag. This forces shortstops, pitchers, or second basemen to move away from their position.
Another important consideration for bunts, Tickel said, is technique.
“We teach that you want to be in a similar stance as (regular) batting,” Tickel said. “You don’t want to ever open up and show that you are bunting. You still want to be strategic. It is a matter of pivoting at the last moment. You want to deaden the ball. As the ball hits the bat, it’s almost like you are drawing back a little bit. You want to get it down the line as much as you can.”
From GameChanger and Hunter Tickel. The source is the author’s stepbrother.