Baseball Hitting – Set and Load

PowerChalk CEO Chaz Henry writes about his experiences coaching baseball.

On the 12U baseball team that I coach, I’ve noticed that too many of our hitters get ‘loaded’ immediately. By loaded, I mean they get in their back-most position as part of their stance. They try and hold that position until it’s time to swing. It seems logical that you’d be quicker to react to the ball if you were already back and as the saying goes in golf, “you don’t hit the ball with your backswing.” Still, the backswing is important. If it weren’t, then why wouldn’t pro golfers just start at the top?

The reason is two-fold.

First, the backswing provides rhythm and timing. It prepares your body to do something extremely athletic. I’ve found in golf (though I don’t always do it) that it’s best to go back slow. The ‘bounce’ at the back is the transition to the fast part. The second thing the backswing does is wind your body. Winding your body to hit, pitch or swing is like getting a running start. The windup is the precursor to the unwind. A backswing is therefore the key to power. Imagine throwing a punch without drawing back your fist.

With that said, how can you take a backswing in baseball where you have only a half second to both evaluate and then meet the pitch? First, you abbreviate it. You couldn’t take a golf style backswing in baseball. Second, you start it before you’ve evaluated the pitch so you’ll be in time to swing if it’s a strike. That’s called timing and according to pitching great Cy Young, it’s the essence of hitting. Timing is hard to master and harder still to teach. Still, here’s a video that opens the conversation. Seeing the pitcher and hitter in the same view yields clues to how the pitch and swing are synchronized.

Bryce Harper has the most exaggerated step and load in Major League Baseball. Some have said he’ll never hit a curve ball because of it. They’re wrong. His use of a big step and load will be the shock absorber that takes up the slack when he gets fooled. I’m glad to see him debunking the no-step frozen stances that are taking hold in much of youth baseball and women’s softball. This is not a linear vs. rotational hitting debate. He’s completely rotational once he sets the front leg.

Rotational hitting doesn’t mean you can’t have linear movement before the swing starts. If it did, you could never make your way to the batter’s box 🙂

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