Here's an important question "What's the strike zone in Little League?" What was your answer? Sorry, you're wrong, try again. What was your next answer?
Sorry, wrong again. At every Little League field in the world, here is the correct answer: "The strike zone is whatever the umpire says it is."
If the ball bounces before home plate and the ump says, "STRIKE!," guess what, a strike is going up on the scoreboard.
If the ball goes right down the middle and the ump says, "BALL!," guess what, a ball is going up on the scoreboard.
With all due respect to youth umpires (they volunteer their time at a thankless and difficult job so our kids can play a game), we know how inconsistent their strike zone judgement can be in the heat of the moment.
And not only that, even in a perfect world, 10 different umps might have 10 different opinions on what's actually a strike and what's a ball.
So all that said, young hitters are setting themselves up for failure when they make the decision whether or not to swing based on what they think the umpire thinks about the pitch.
When that's the thought process, young hitters get crippled by indecision because they're essentially trying to play mind-reader of the ump.
Since we never know for sure what the ump is going to say, how silly is to make a really important decision like "when should I swing" based on what we think someone else thinks about a pitch?
So the WRONG question going through our hitter's heads when the pitch is on the way is: "IS THIS A STRIKE?" The RIGHT question is, "CAN I HIT THIS BALL HARD?" And if the answer to that question is, "YES!" then it’s always the right the decision to swing.
Let's stop thinking in terms of the strike zone and let's start thinking in terms of the hitting zone. I've never seen a player smash a double on a pitch slightly out of the umpire's "strike zone" and have the ump negate the double and call the player back to the batter's box to try again on a "strike."
Does this mean swing at every pitch? Or pitches over our head? Absolutely not. But we should be swinging at every single pitch we think we have a chance of hitting hard. This gives the hitter complete control over his at-bat and takes the power away from the umpire.
When young players start asking themselves the right question when deciding whether to swing, and we as parents encourage all aggressive swings at any pitch they think they can hit hard, regardless of the result, we're now setting them up for success.
This will lead to a confident and fearless approach at the plate.
Any other thought process is a recipe for indecision, disappointment, and passive hitting.
EXCLUSIVE FOR GAMECHANGER READERS: WILSON GLOVE GIVEAWAY
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Dan Spring was drafted in 2003 by the Detroit Tigers, and has spent the last 10 years providing instruction for over 17,000 youth baseball players. He currently runs the Spring Training Baseball Academy in Palos Verdes, California and runs the Eye Black Academy, a youth baseball instruction site.