Baseball has a rich tradition of excellence dating back well over 100 years. Some hitters ignore this productive past and focus only on the modern trappings of the game. This limits their potential greatness, in many instances.
“I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light,” said jazz musician John Coltrane. Here are several “old things” from baseball that aid the development of a hitter. Try these in your drills.
1) Use dark, dingy and discolored baseballs. Replacing a baseball which has been scuffed by dirt is a modern phenomenon. Accustom yourself to hit a difficult target, in particular during fading daylight, and the modern, shiny, new, pearl-white baseball of a game will look like a lit-up beach ball in comparison.
2) Spitballs and other odd pitches made possible by devious means (scuffing the cover, smearing mud or vaseline, etc.) were once completely legal. Accustom yourself to hitting balls that break more than a conventional, modern day curveball. Several methods: A) during soft-toss drills, have the tosser bounce the ball. Use a tennis ball with o-rings around it or one of the commercial trademarked knobby balls that take erratic bounces. B) practice hitting a trademarked Wiffle ball. Place the pitcher at a shortened distance and focus on hitting the ball as, or after, it breaks. C) during soft-toss drills, have the tosser put deliberate and excessive spin on his offerings. Release from different hand and arm positions.
3) Wear bulky and uncomfortable clothing. Old-timers wore heavy, itchy, uncomfortable and unbearable hot wool uniforms. Accustom yourself to maintain your focus and concentration no matter what you wear. Hit in a sweatshirt or a coat – make certain to not adjust your swing in any way. In contrast, when you don the lightweight and comfortable modern-day uniform, you’ll look and feel and perform like a great hitter.
4) Hit outdoors in inclement weather. Domes and retractable roofs and enclosed stadiums are modern-day bastardizations of a game once played when the grass was real. Dig into the batters box and hit in mud, dust, puddles, snow, rain, high wind and high grass.
Use the so-called disadvantages of old-time baseball and turn them into modern-day advantages. Baseball is baseball, no matter when, how, or in what conditions it is played. And a great hitter becomes a greater hitter when he sees old things in a new light, and turns them into a positive training experience.