When you’re entering your first season at the helm of a new program, getting everyone to mesh and be on the same page in the summer is a major focal point.
Mick Harper is going into his first season at Bremen High School after spending two successful decades with the Chapel Hill softball team. The Low-Middle-High drill is one way he’s trying to acclimate himself to the talents of his players.
In the drill, there’s a station set up with two regular tees and one mini-tee. The small tee is about mid-shin, while the other two are belt high and letter high—i.e. low, middle and high. Batters hit five times off each tee at a rapid rate, with the objective being to keep the bat on the plane of the ball longer.
“If you can do that, the better success you’re going to have at contact,” Harper said. “We rotate through kind of quickly so that they’re having to change their eye level and ... so we can hit line drives, stay on top and not lift that high pitch. ”
The drill is a superb way to be aware of the three different types of strike zones according to Harper.
“One is your own strike zone, determining the pitches you hit the best,” Harper said. “ It’s what they’re looking for with one strike or no strikes. The one that really matters is the umpires’ strike zone. They’re all human, so there’s a shift a little bit. Some will give a little bit more on the outside. Some are a little bit lower. Some are a little bit higher. We’ve got to see what the pitcher is doing and then be able to recognize early in the count (the) pitches in our strike zone and be able to jump on pitches and be able to be aggressive.”
Two-strike recognition is the most crucial.
“Now we have to know what the umpire’s strike zone is as well as the tendency of the pitchers so that we can know what we’re really defending,” Harper said.
The drill enables the batter to get reps from many angles while allowing the coaching staff to jot down comprehensive notes.
“This drill helps us to not only hit at different levels, but it also gives us the ability to discover where these kids hit the ball the best,” Harper said. “We move it up and down at different times but also move it in and out of the zone as well. That allows us to see low, middle, high, inside, outside and down the middle in one particular drill.”
The drill certainly helps aid the teaching process.
Harper envisions the drill will assist in a productive campaign this season.
“Coming into a new program we’re trying to mesh in the summertime putting in defensive and offensive calls,” Harper said. “I think as we move closer to the season it’ll be a drill that they can learn very quickly, and we can use it as a warmup drill and something they can do on their own.”