Part 3: Improving hand eye coordination to become a better baseball hitter
Part 3 of a 6-part series
You need to see the ball to hit the ball
As the third part in my 6-part series on hitting more home runs, I'd like to focus on one area of the game that people often ignore in their training: hand-eye coordination. You've got to be able to see a ball that's just 9 inches in circumference thrown in your general direction from 60 feet 6 inches away at speed and with some unnatural movement. After you see the ball, you've got to figure out where it's going to be when it reaches the plate, whether you should swing at it, and where the barrel of your bat should be to make the best contact with it.
That sounds pretty complicated, but there are things we can do to improve the way we react to movement. The goal here is to more consistently get the sweetspot of the bat in the hitting zone as the baseball is pass through that zone. For those of you who don't know -- and I find an incredible number of baseball players do not know this, the sweetspot of the bat is located about 7 inches from the end of the barrel on a typical 34 inch wood bat. On a Louisville Slugger, it's a little in from the "M" in "MODEL". A lot of people seem to think it's closer to the end of the barrel for some reason.
Hand-eye coordination exercises
There's no reason why improving your hand-eye coordination can't be fun. The most useful tool I've used is the game of ping pong. I bought myself a table for my basement, bought a big tub of balls (also great for other pong games on Saturday nights ;), some paddles, and some friends (I didn't buy them, but they seemed to just start showing up after I got the ping pong table. I you want to start wearing a sweater vest and referring to the sport as "table tennis", be my guest.
There really is no specific way you need to play ping pong to improve your hand-eye coordination, the game does it all on its own. The fact that the ball is small is a plus, because you really have to focus to make decent contact with it, even though you're using a flat paddle. Try to challenge your friends to really play hard, because the faster the ball is going to more you're training your eyes and hands to move quickly and in concert with one another.
How can I play ping pong if I have no friends?
This is a fairly common question. Perhaps you've been a jerk all your life and now the only thing you have to fall back on is your baseball career. That's pretty much the story of 90% of the guys in professional baseball. Or maybe you do have friends but you just have the urge to play ping pong at 3:00 in the morning. Have no fear, they now make machines that'll serve up ping pong balls to you until you pass out on the basement floor.