Drills & Training
In order to best prepare our body and mind to hit curveballs, it is vital that we get in the habit of drilling the right habits. In the section that follows we will look at a progression of three front toss drills that are used by pro players across the country, everyday, to help them get more comfortable with hitting off-speed pitches. These drills are the first step on a hitter’s journey to tame the curveball, so take them seriously, and really commit to the ideas that each sperate drill promotes.
In the “Pitch-Hold Front Toss Drill” we introduce the body to the concept of striding with our weight back. The primary reason that young players struggle to adjust to off-speed pitches is that they commit too much of their body weight forward on the stride, leaving their lower body in a bad position to drive the ball with any conviction. In this drill we practice regular front toss, but randomly we will fake a toss and hold the baseball. Our goal with this is to see where the athlete’s weight is on the holds. Ideally, we want that back leg to still have most of the weight in it on every stride we take. This is great drill to warm up with as it allows you and the athlete to monitor your body weight and practice keeping power in your legs, which will serve us well in the drills to follow…
In the “Lofted Front Toss” we add in the off-speed variable. Much like the previous drill, our sequences of throws will be randomized between normal front toss throws and lofted slower throws. The idea being that a slower lofted toss will simulate a curveball dropping into the zone. This drill links well with the previous one, because if your weight is committed too far forward on the lofted toss you will have no power in which to hit the ball. Stride, keep the weight back, adjust the eyes to the loft, and drive it up the middle. This drill is really fun to do with a parent or teammate, and it’s all about reps. The more you train this drill, the more the athlete will realize the importance of keeping the weight back and adjusting to flight of a breaking ball, mid-pitch.
The final drill in our sequence is the “Toss & Tee Variation”. In this drill we set up a normal front toss station, but with a batting tee and baseball on the outside part of the plate, and a little out in front of our body. The thrower will again randomize a series of normal throws and holds. On the normal throws the athlete thinks about staying inside the baseball and driving it up the middle, so they don’t hit the tee and knock the ball over, but on the holds the athlete must quickly adjust and hit the ball on the tee the opposite way. This drill simulates what happens on a curveball that fools you. If your weight is not back, you will top the ball on the tee into the ground in-front of you. By keeping our weight back on the stride we can better adjust to the ball on the tee and drive it with conviction the other way for a base hit.
In all three of these drills we are practicing the correct body position to be in if you do get fooled by an off-speed pitch. Hitting is about the little adjustments that you make with your eyes and hands in the split second before the ball reaches your bat. Prioritize striding with a loaded back leg, and you will find that hitting curveballs with power becomes substantially easier, because you are more balanced and your eyes are more trained to the movement of the ball