In today’s day and age of baseball and softball with Hit Tracks, Win Reality, Statcast, and many other outlets that track and store digital data about any aspect of the game, it makes complete sense that this newer generation of youth ball players is fully deep diving into the new aspects of the game. While these programs have significant and immense benefits, it may not be the best way for training youth players. For younger ball players, the real benefits lie in the more simpler aspects of training such as tee work, front toss, rolled ground balls, and other self regulating pieces of the baseball puzzle.
The appeal of the pitching machine is unmatched. Who wouldn’t want an automated way to get consistent pitches to put great swings on? The issue with the pitching machine, however, is just that: it’s incredibly consistent. The likelihood of a player getting only middle-middle pitches in a game are next to zero. It also doesn’t help if all a young player is doing is swinging through 15 pitches and moving to the next round like nothing happened. Pitching machines operate on their own time, making for an impersonal and unhelpful training tool for young kids. Now, this is not to say that the pitching machine doesn’t have its uses; however, its practicality lies in more developed players at older age ranges.
Pitching machines are a drill within itself that is most utilized once fundamentals of the game have already been developed. Pitching machines are, in turn, far greater tools for upper level players such as high school and college athletes. Players’ understanding of hitting and consciousness of their swing allows for far more beneficial use of a pitching machine compared to a young ball player who is still learning their swing and its components.
So what should youth players be doing? While it isn’t glamorous, young players should be doing tee work and front toss to get a basic understanding of their swing. It’s important they learn how to hit the ball in the right spot at the right time at an ideal position before they move to top speed pitching. Front toss is effective for simplifying hitting and learning the pieces to one’s swing.
Baseball/Softball is a complex sport and hitting is an even more complex idea within this ambiguous activity. Parts of the game like launch angle, ball placement, speed, and more are very important to becoming great, but they are absolutely not essential for young ball players. They cannot move onto these big concepts until they’ve developed the basics of hitting. It is important to practice hand eye coordination on a stationary target before dealing with a moving object. Finding one’s own bat path and natural swing is an essential stepping stone to moving forward in baseball.
Co Authors – Mark & Cali