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Who is the best hitting coach and why?
The inner game hitting coach produces the best results
It has been said many times that hitting a round ball with a round bat is the single most difficult thing to do well in any sport. Historically, a hitter is considered to be an excellent hitter if they have a .300 batting average, thereby succeeding only 30% of the time and failing 70% of the time.
If a quarterback in football completed only 30% of his passes, he would be considered to be horrible. If a basketball player only made 30% of his shots, he too would be considered horrible. If a fielder in baseball only caught 30% of the ground balls hit to him, he would be considered horrible too.
Hitting a baseball or fastpitch softball is not only difficult to do as a player, but teaching people how to be a successful hitter is also a very difficult thing to do and do well. In professional baseball, for example, the hitting coaches get fired more frequently than any other type of coaches.
In my opinion, hitting coaches at the highest level get fired the most because the vast majority of them, if not all of them, rely almost totally on teaching the physical mechanics of the swing while they almost totally ignore or avoid teaching the inner game of hitting or how to most effectively use the mind at home plate.
The vast majority of hitting coaches in Major League Baseball have simply been teaching essentially the same things for the past 100 years. For the most part, individual hitters have always been pretty much left on their own with regard to constructively utilizing their minds at home plate..
With that in mind, I would like to explain why I honestly believe I am the most effective hitting coach in America today, and possibly the entire world. Yes, I blush when I make such bold claims but I honestly believe I can prove it to any major League Baseball organization if granted an audition.
Let me try to make my case for being the best hitting coach in America today. In 1971, I was a senior at the University of Richmond, playing on the baseball team for the legendary coach Mac Pitt who happened to be 74 years old at the time. Coach Pitt was in his 42nd year as the baseball coach at the U of R. At one time, Coach Pitt had been the head football coach, head basketball coach, and head baseball coach, all in the same year.
Coach Pitt had been friends with Harry "The Hat" Walker, the man who invented the Hitting Tee. After Harry explained to Coach Pitt why the hitting Tee was so important, Coach Pitt made all of his players take a minimum of 25 proper swings off the Tee every day. I now understand how to use the Hitting Tee properly, at least the way Harry Walker thought it should be used, which is something very few people understand, even at the highest level.
In my senior year at the U of R, I was the regular left fielder and batted number 3 in the lineup. Because some of our pitching staff had academic problems, I was forced to pitch and finished the year hitting .344 with a 6-0 pitching record. I was drafted as an outfielder and pitcher in the 1971 June draft by the San Francisco Giants.
In Casa Grande, Arizona, at the Giants spring training facility, I received my first hitting lesson from Hank Sauer, the Giants head hitting instructor. During and after the lesson, I was absolutely dumbfounded with disbelief. I honestly thought Hank Sauer was the dumbest human being I had ever seen or heard, yet the Giants were actually paying him to help the likes of Willie Mays and Willie McCovey?
This was when I first realized that MLB had to be a good-ole-boy fraternity where old ballplayers, who had once been good players, could be totally incompetent as coaches yet have a job and earn a good living. As a hitting coach, Hank Sauer was virtually worthless. The U of R's Coach Pitt had forgotten more about being a hitting coach than coaches like Hank Sauer would ever know. I was so thankful for my time with Coach Pitt, even though Coach Pitt had no clue about the hitting secrets I was to discover several years later.
I was assigned to the Great Falls Giants in the Pioneer League, the lowest form of minor league baseball. While there, I was roommates with two of the wildest people I had ever met and the three of us chased women and broke curfew every night. We were caught out after curfew twice in the same week and I was justifiably released and sent home. I was a good ballplayer but not very wise when I was 21 years old. It was truly humiliating for me to be sent home after only about 3 weeks as a pro.
When I returned to Newport News, Virginia, Jess Kersey, the long time NBA referee, invited me to try out for Fox Hill, one of the top 10 or so men's fastpitch softball teams in America. Fox Hill played teams like the Clearwater Bombers, Raybestos Cardinals, and the best teams in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.
Fox Hill was so good that The Daily Press and The Times Herald, the morning and evening newspapers for the Newport News, Hampton, and the Williamsburg , Virginia area each assigned a sports reporter to cover every game.
Fox Hill had been getting a lot of ink in the newspapers for many years and had a lot of fans. My father , T.P. Wright, had always kept a scrapbook of the newspaper clippings about me and would often joke by saying, "Bruce, it's not whether you win or lose, it's what kind of write up you get in the newspaper that counts!"
The very first night I showed up for practice at Fox Hill, a tryout of sorts, I was absolutely dumbfounded by the incredible speed of the pitching I saw. The primary reason Fox Hill was always so good is the fact that they always had at least one world class pitcher on the team.
In 1972, Fox Hill had a pitcher by the name of Ron Peterson who was in the last year of his prime as a Superstar fastpitch softball pitcher. In 1969, Ron had been recognized as the best right handed pitcher in the world. He was reportedly throwing it about 100 mph from 46 feet away.
He had a Knuckle Rise ball that was virtually impossible to hit. Travelling at maybe 85 to 90 mph, or faster, the ball would jump about 6-inches straight up, with knuckleball-like movement, and make this hyper jump about 6 feet in front of home plate. I never saw anyone hit it.
I understand now that the fastest male pitchers are actually throwing it closer to 85 mph, not 100 mph. Regardless, even at 85 mph, it looked faster than anything I had ever seen and I have faced baseball pitchers throwing it 100 mph.
When you do the math, an 85 mph pitch from 46 feet is equal to a 111.79 mph pitch from 60'-6"in terms of elapsed time. A 100 mph pitch from 46 feet is equal to a 131.52 mph pitch from 46 feet. The fastest pitch ever recorded in MLB is 106 mph thrown by the big left handed Cuban pitcher named Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds.
All of the world class fastpitch softball pitchers threw riseballs, drops, and changups. The best fastpitch softball pitchers average 2 strikouts per inning while the best baseball pitchers average one strikeout per inning. Most of the top fastpitch softball teams had several position players who had been former professional baseball players. Fox Hill, my team, had four former pro baseball players in 1972; our three outfielders and our shortstop.
During my first two years at Fox Hill I realized that succeeding against these world class fastpitch softball pitchers was the most difficult thing any hitter could possibly do. I soon realized that unless you have a specific and well rehearsed plan of attack against the best pitchers, you stood little to no chance of succeeding against them.
It just so happened that the best pitcher in the world at that time was a man named Ty Stofflet from Reading, PA. and his team, The Rising Sun, just happened to be in the same region as Fox Hill. Ty's fastball had reportedly been clocked at 104.7 mph. If that was true, which more recent information seems to refute, it would mean that a pitch thrown 104.7 mph from 46 feet is equal to a pitch travelling 137.70 mph from 60'-6" in terms of elapsed time.
The Amateur Softball Association, the ASA, had the United States divided up into 20 different regions. The winner of each of the 20 regional tournaments, at the end of the season, would earn a spot in the National Tournament to determine the National Champion.
In 1974, about two weeks before the big regional tournament, I was watching a Saturday morning baseball show for children which was hosted by Johnny Bench, the Hall of Fame Catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. On this particular show Johnny's special guest was his teammate Pete Rose who was on the show to teach the kids about hitting.
Pete Rose told the children that until he had two strikes against him he liked to look for a particular pitch, mainly a fastball, but he would only swing at it if the pitch would pass through a tiny little window in his strike zone. Pete even held up his hands and made a little square window with his two hands, a square window maybe 4" to 5" square.
Here I was almost 25 years old and had never heard such a simple idea. I had played little league, pony league, colt league, American Legion, JV & High school baseball, junior college and major college baseball, professional baseball, and now was playing world class fastpitch softball. I had received the coaching of numerous different coaches, some even highly regarded, yet I had NEVER heard such a simple and powerful idea from any of them.
I was dumbfounded. Pete Rose made such a big deal about how important he thought it was, I knew it had to have been really important to Pete, something he actually used thousands of times. Yet, I had never heard about this from anyone?
Well, I decided to used Pete's little 4-inch square window idea against Ty Stofflet. I had asked every player on my team at Fox Hill what they planned to do against Ty, what specific strategy they were planning to use against him. Most had really not given it much thought but when I persisted I got pretty much the same answer from all of them. They were going to look for his changeup, a pitch he seemed to throw about one-third of the time.
Of course, when I asked each of my teammates how many hits they had gotten off off Ty in the past," none " was the typical answer. Therefore, I decided I would Look for his "popper" with less than two strikes, the pitch Ty, himself, claims to have been clocked at 104.7 mph.
Also, at that time, I had been listening to some audio tapes about the power of the subconscious mind because I was trying to help a friend sell these tapes. He had purchased a little success tape franchise and recruited me to help him. Learning about the enormous powers of our subconscious mind was fascinating stuff. I had never heard about any of this stuff either. At that time, I don't think anyone in baseball or fastpitch softball knew much about the workings of the subconscious mind. At least, I never heard a coach talk about it.
So, for about two weeks prior to the big regional tournament where we were sure to meet Ty Stofflet, the best pitcher in the world, I started using Pete Rose's 4-inch window idea and this new visualization process I had just learned about. I had absolutely no idea if it would work or not but I had to try something because if I didn't, Ty would simply humiliate me like he did to virtually everyone else he faced.
Typically, I had a wide stance in the batter's box, took a very short and smooth stride, and kept my head and eyes as still and focused on the ball as possible. I had faced Ty several times in the past so he knew about my wide stance.
My plan was to make Ty think that I was looking for his changeup so he would throw me his popper. I would stand up tall in the batter's box with my feet close together appearing to be a slow pitch hitter looking for a slow pitch. Then, just as Ty started his windup motion, I would slip into my wide hitting stance just moments before he released the pitch.
For two weeks prior to the big tournament I visualized or mentally rehearsed hitting a perfect zero-degree line shot, a vicious shot that travels parallel to the ground. I visualized the pitch leaving his hand and travelling the path it needed to travel to get to my little 4" square window.
I visualized or imagined the sweet spot of the barrel of my bat making contact with the very center of the softball. I imagined the ball mashing or compressing against my bat's barrel and exploding off my bat on this vicious zero degree line shot. I visualized this perfect hit from start to finish hundreds of times in slow motion, hundreds of times in regular motion, and hundreds of times in super-fast motion.
I thought about this one and only plan almost every waking moment , all day every day, for two weeks. Sure enough, on the very first night of the regional tournament, held in Lancaster, PA, Fox Hill was scheduled to play Ty Stofflet's team in the featured game at 9 PM.
I was batting fifth in the lineup that night and when I came to bat for the first time Ty already had four strikeouts. I was focused totally on my plan, even though the ballpark was absolutely jam packed full of screaming fans. The stands were full and people were five rows deep all the way around the entire field.
In the batter's box, I wanted Ty to see me as a slow pitch hitter in a Sunday school slow pitch league obviously looking for a changeup. Ty started his windmill windup and just before he released the ball I quickly assumed my normal wide fastpitch hitting stance. Sure enough, Ty fired a popper and it was exactly the pitch I had been visualizing for the past two weeks. It could not have been any more perfect.
While the ball was thrown as hard as Ty could throw it, I seemed to have plenty of time. I could see the ball so well. The ball seemed to be travelling slower for some reason. I felt as if I had altered time somehow. I swung my bat and connected just like I had visualized it thousands of times during the past two weeks. Being a right handed hitter, I pulled the ball as hard as I could hit it, a perfect zero-degree line shot.
The line shot passed about three inches directly over the crouching third baseman's hat and got past him before he could even react. The low and vicious line shot took only two bounces and crashed up against the outfield fence. I coasted into second base with an easy stand up double. The crowd went nuts and Ty, being the gentleman he was, turned around, looked at me and tipped his hat. It was a fantastic moment for me with goose bumps all around.
The next time up, I employed my same plan. On the first two pitches, Ty threw me a downer and a changeup and I took both pitches. Both were called balls too. Ordinarily, I would have probably swung at one or both of those pitches and either been down with an 0-2 count or have swung at a bad pitch and made an out by hitting a weak pop up or grounder.
Then, with the count 2-0, Ty threw me another popper and I hit another zero-degree shot directly between the third baseman and shortstop for a single. I was now 2 for 2 against the best pitcher in the world. Again, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone or had made a deal with the Devil to slow down the action. The ball simply appeared to be moving so much slower than I had ever seen it move before. Batting against the world's best pitcher just seemed too easy for me now. Something truly incredible was happening to me. This was another fantastic moment in my life.
I ended up making it to third base on a passed ball and scoring on a sacrifice fly to give Fox Hill the only run we would score in the game. The third time up, Ty had figured it best not to throw me his popper again, so he crossed me up and threw a few changups to get ahead of me, then struck me out with a hard downer.
As I look back on this experience, I should have devoted more time to a two strike strategy, maybe some form of Ty Cobb, Wee Willie Keeler split grip and no stride approach where I could make sure I, at least, always hit the ball with two strikes.
We ended up losing that game 4-1. However, the players on my team were dumbfounded by my incredible hitting success against Ty and they wanted to know what I was doing to hit Ty so well. When I attempted to explain that I had managed to slow down time somehow with my visualization practice, they just rolled their eyes, assumed I was nuts, and told me I had just been lucky. I knew it was more than just luck.
We ended up having to win 6 games in a row in the losers' bracket to earn another crack at Ty's team in the finals. All in all, in that 1974 Regional tournament, I ended up being the tournament's top hitter going 9-19, a .474 BA. In 6 at-bats against Ty I hit four line shots, getting three hits, and having one of the line shots caught by the shortstop.
I hit several more line shots that were caught for outs. In my 19 at-bats, I hit about 13 or14 hard line shots. It is frustrating to hit the ball as hard as you can right at an infielder or an outfielder for an out. Over the years, I have fine tuned the mental programming so you don't waste too many line shots but rather hit those hard line drives where the defense can't get them.
That Zone-like experience of slowing down time at the plate stayed with me during the entire tournament. Even though I was batting against some of the toughest pitching in the world, I had never consistently hit so many hard line drives. It was absolutely the coolest 8 game stretch of hitting I had ever had. My two weeks of intense visualization work paid off much bigger than I had ever dreamed to be possible.
Since that time, I have read hundreds of books about the human mind and how it operates. Over the past 40 years, I have taught this method of hitting preparation to many baseball and fastpitch softball players too. In some cases, especially those where the hitter got serious about doing the exercises, these hitters experienced amazing successes too.
I have written two books about the inner game of hitting, the mental side of hitting, and have talked about it and written about it so much that I can now explain it in very simple and understandable terms, even to young people. I have written some hitting instructional pieces that do a pretty good job of summing up the process necessary to help you enter your zone at home plate on a regular basis.
Today, the vast majority of hitting coaches focus almost exclusively on the physical-mechanical aspects of hitting while virtually ignoring the inner game. This is true in Major League Baseball all the way down to the little leagues.
I am one of the very few hitting instructors, maybe the only one, who focuses exclusively on the inner game. The fact that I have actually experienced the fantastic benefits of this mental programming, personally, makes my teaching so much more powerful. My students can feel the power of the truth in my words.
They know that I am telling the truth and this makes them feel like giving it a try. Once they try it and start getting the amazing results, then they will only want to work harder. It is for these reason I feel like I am the most effective hitting coach in the world. My inner game teachings simply produce the best results and results should be all that count. The fact that I am not a member of the good-ole-boy fraternity should not matter.
If you wish, you can go to my website by clicking on the link below and find my email there. Send me an email and I will email you several of my instructional pieces at no charge. Hitting can be so much more fun when you allow more and more of your subconscious mind to get actively involved with you at home plate. Absolutely nothing is more beneficial to your hitting success.
Bruce Winship Wright