Once young baseball players finally make it onto the big diamond, there are a lot of adjustments they need to make. Little league power hitters learn quickly that a home run on their last field is a lazy fly ball now, and outfielders that could throw runners out at the plate in the air need to learn the importance of hitting the cutoff man.
But, perhaps one of the most difficult adjustments these young athletes must make is hitting a breaking pitch – something that is so tough to master that it's led to the demise of many a professional baseball player's career.
There are a lot of different drills and exercises coaches can use to help their players get used to see the curveball, but ultimately – like most aspects of the game – it's really all mental.
Rob Ellis, who was once a teammate of Hank Aaron, said in an article that the legendary slugger's secret to hitting a breaking pitch was his confidence in being able to hit the fastball.
Aaron's swing was consistently smooth and level, no matter the pitch thrown to him. Therefore, his strategy was to simply look for the curveball and react to the heater.
Former big leaguer Doug Glanville wrote in a column for The New York Times that he takes a similar approach in life and at the plate.
"What I found was that your approach doesn’t have to be any different from the one you use when dealing with … any other curveball life throws at you," Glanville wrote. "We spend so much time cruising along, looking to hit the straight and dependable fastball, that the audacity of something different can cause us to forget any and every tactic that once gave us comfort and success."
Coaches can help their players master a straight, fluid swing with batting tee drills. For other tips and drills, coaches should visit YouthBaseballPlans.com.