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Emphasizing Quality At-Bats

In an era where bigger is better and flash often supersedes substance, there’s still something to be said for taking a workmanlike approach at the plate.

Not everyone is blessed with the physical tools to belt out home runs, but every player can sharpen the mental side of his or her game to make each at-bat count.

Brian Crow has been the head softball coach at Pike County (Georgia) High School for the past three seasons. Crow is especially proud of how he's been able to prepare his team for the mental aspect of the game through the importance of daily preparation. 

His approach to making sure his players understand the value of quality at-bats has helped the team reach the state’s Elite 8 in 2014 and a third-place finish in the state in 2016.

Crow looks for his hitters to do something productive at the plate every single time, such as hitting the ball hard and taking walks. It helps the hitter not get discouraged when he or she doesn’t get a hit.

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“We talk about being comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” Crow said, “Being mentally tough when things get tough.”

And they work on those skills endlessly in practice, focusing on hitting line drives, hard ground balls and being aware of the situation.

“Situational hitting might be a long fly ball to score a runner from third, when other times a fly ball is the last thing we want,” Crow said. “Other times it might just be a ground ball if the infield is playing back to score the runner from third. It may be being very good at sacrifice bunting on offense but also being very good at bunt defense. Point of the story is to stick with the process what we measure in (quality at-bats) and not be upset about a batting average because it can be very misleading and in this game confidence is everything.” 

The Pike County staff tracks quality at-bats and keeps a cumulative average for each player. The way they define quality at-bats is crystal clear for each player so they know what to emphasize.

“Hard hit ball on the ground or line drive,” Crow said. “Also, a walk, hit by pitch, sac bunt, sac fly, advancing a runner with no outs, a nine or more pitch at-bat, a hit. Each team can modify the list depending on what they like, those are some things we measure. … For the amount of things we count, I would say 60% or better is what we want.”

Not only do quality at-bats pay dividends on the field, Crow believes that there are life lessons to be learned as well.

“Sticking with process for quality at-bats teaches dedication and determination when adversity may come your way,” Crow said. “In a game, the player might be 0-for-4 with no hits, but was able to sac bunt a runner over or sac fly a runner in, or get hit by a pitch to give their team a base runner in a close game. In life, as you know, things don't always go your way. You have get up and keep going.“

From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa.

Baseball, Softball, Baseball Player Development, Softball Player Development, Baseball Tips & Drills, Softball Tips & Drills

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