June 29, 2020 - Beginning with this issue every coach, parent, man or woman, who has young boys or girls in their care should read this message until they understand its contents and its importance for their continued growth as a hitter.
“You’re trying too hard, or “don’t try so hard.”
As a player, has any coach ever offered that advice to you? Probably. As a coach, could you even begin to know how many times you have uttered those words to one of your players? Too many to count, right?
If you are a player, exactly what did that message mean to you? Did your coach ever take the time to fully explain to you those words of wisdom?
If not, let me take you to a place of understanding that I hope will remain with you for a lifetime.
“Trying too hard.”
With anything, sports, or in any other walk of life, the harder you try to do something, the less control you have over the thing you are trying to do. That sentence is dead-on fact.
A couple of examples:
If you should try to drive your car at seventy miles per hour on an icy mountain road with many sharp turns and a drop of five hundred feet to the valley below, you will probably have failed, likely fatally so. Too fast, too hard, and total loss of control. Remember that word--- “control.”
A second example---much more fun, and easy to do while you read this message. Take pen and paper and write at your normal pace something like the following: “I really love to play baseball/softball.”
That came out pretty well, didn’t it? No setback at all, was there?
On a new line, write the same sentence again, but this time write those words as fast as your hand can possibly move, the pen zipping across the paper, fast---fast---fast.
How does the second line look, compared to the first one? Pretty sorry, I would imagine. I know I don’t have to ask you “why.” You already know. You tried too hard, and you lost “control.”
Let’s transfer to baseball or softball. You are a batter at the plate, the pitcher delivers the ball. You swing---as hard as possible---but you miss. What is the too-often result? Your uncontrolled swing forces you off-balance---out of control. Failure.
After being on the end of some good-natured scolding, many of my hitting students have asked me “well, coach Taylor, how hard should I swing?”
My answer to them, and to everyone, everywhere, is simple to understand. “I want you to swing as hard as you can, with matching bat (barrel) control, and matching body control. Your efforts should never exceed your abilities to control those efforts.”
Now I want to take you deeper into a bottomless pool of baseball knowledge. What you are about to read has possibly never before been discussed by the accepted pundits of the game---a secondary factor of how hard you can or cannot attack the ball.
Here is a “newness” question for you. How would you describe your “base?”
I can just guess that that question really caught you “off center,” didn’t it? I will bet more than a few pennies that no matter how long you have been around baseball, you have never heard discussions about a batter’s “base,” concerning his time in the batter’s box.
I will use two 2018 Houston Astros, George Springer, and Evan Gattis, as illustrations for the importance of “base.”
Mr. Springer and Mr. Gattis are two players for whom I have great respect, and the following facts have no negative references as to their capabilities as solid major league baseball players. Both men are well loved by their many fans.
What I will be centering on could actually originate from the laws of “Physics,” and their effects on all of us.
The Astros’ bio on George Springer lists him at six feet, three inches tall, weighing two hundred and fifteen pounds.
The bio on Evan Gattis reads six feet, four inches, weighing two hundred and sixty pounds.
Mr. Springer is tall, but much lighter than Mr. Gattis, and with much less lower body weight. More lower body weight means more “base,” or more anchor to allow a batter to swing harder with less loss of balance.
During the 2018 baseball season, it was not uncommon to see George Springer foul off, or swing and miss at a pitch, then stumble across the plate, multiple times in a single game. Why?
The answer is obvious. No batter with his physical structure can swing as hard as he does and maintain his bat (barrel) control, or his body (balance) control. That sentence is certainly not a rap against George Springer---it is logic demanded by the nature of Physics.
Evan Gattis, on the other hand, because of his larger base, can swing much harder than Mr. Springer, with less fear of losing his balance. Extremely rare were the times a fan would see him totally off balance at the plate. His only fear of swinging too hard would be partial loss of his barrel control.
In summation, I will repeat to you the reader, never swing so hard that you lose total control.
Here is an interesting thought for you. The National Football League is filled with offensive and defensive linemen who weigh well over three hundred pounds, massive men who spend an entire game pushing and pulling their opponents. Let’s take the biggest and strongest one we can find and put him on a mat opposing a professional Japanese Sumo wrestler. Who would win? No doubt---the Sumo. His larger “base” would have the much taller lineman off the mat in thirty seconds.