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How India Chiles Became an Elite Slap Hitter

India Chiles began her college career at Tennessee as a second baseman who batted from her right-hand side. After leaving Rocky Top as an All-America, left-handed, slap-hitting outfielder, she's eager to use her example to help other players make a similar transition.

The turning point for Chiles came after a freshman season during which she was used primarily as a pinch runner. So co-coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly came to Chiles and suggested she try becoming a slap hitter, which could afford her more playing time.

Chiles signed on.

That summer she went home to Louisville, enrolled in summer school at a local college and “did my best to learn the art of slap hitting.” 

“Ralph and Karen Weekly came down to monitor my progress once or twice that summer and offered me guidance,” she said. “My high school coach, Alan Jones, arranged for me to train with a former collegiate pitcher a few times a week, and I trained for at least 30 minutes per day. And that’s how I learned.”

Back with the Lady Vols for her sophomore season in 2005, Chiles indeed found more playing time — starting 55 of 76 games — and finished with a .353 batting average. But 2006 launched Chiles onto the national scene when she finished with a .437 average and a .469 on base percentage.

Thriving as a slap hitter required both mental and physical adjustments.

“It is often underestimated how hard it is to get the ball to a certain part of the field,” Chiles said. “When you think of it, regardless of the pitch, you have to find a hole in the defense … easier said than done. This was the hardest part.”

Mentally, Chiles said it's easy to get down on yourself when you’re a slap hitter.

“Meaning, you can go 1-for-3 in a game, getting barely thrown out at first and feel like you failed for the day,” she said. “Meanwhile, you can have a teammate fly out to the fence three times in a game feeling like they had a great day at the plate. You have to keep it all in perspective and realize that if you're putting pressure on the defense, you're effectively doing your job.”

Her senior campaign at Tennessee earned Chiles the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Year Award and first-team All-America honors as she accumulated a .459 batting average, which jumped up to.544 in conference play.

Chiles credited her gaudy numbers to her ability to make adjustments against pitchers.

“Some pitchers have a funky windup. Other pitchers throw faster or slower than you may be accustomed to. As a slapper, this is where your expertise shows: you have to be quick to make adjustments pitch by pitch,” said Chiles, who now runs clinics about slapping under the banner of SlapperNation.

“I always stress that the fastest players don't make the best slap hitters. The players with the strongest mental game do. For example, you see teams that don't score runs until late innings of a game. As a slap hitter, you have to have a ‘lead-off mentality,’ meaning you step in the box ready to execute each time. The team needs you to get on base, and that's your job. Your time on deck and in the dugout is crucial to learning the tendencies of a pitcher, so that when you're up to the plate, you have her down.”

From GameChanger and Maren Angus.

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