Hitting Position: The Hosmer Breakdown

Hitting Position

Hitting position is a fundamental common to every good swing. The stances may vary, the styles may vary as much, or more, than the individual fingerprints of each and every batter, but HITTING POSITION IS A FUNDAMENTAL

A batter who gets to hitting position EVERY PITCH, no matter where their stance starts, makes for a consistent hitter. It’s important and it’s vital, and it’s simple. Hitting position consistency is key to being a consistent hitter. The best hitters in MLB get to hitting position every single pitch.

What is hitting position?

Hitting position starts the moment the stride (front) foot hits the ground. If you freeze frame this moment, this are the factors necessary for a proper hitting position:

  • Eyes level.
  • Front arm square or about at a 45° angle.
  • Stride foot landing of ball of foot and with a solid “stick” to stop forward slide of body. Outside of foot should be facing the pitcher.
  • Bottom hand stays in loaded position (at back shoulder level and over the back foot no more than 6 inches away from shoulder) with no lift of slide forward as weight shifts forward with stride.
  • Bat at 45° angle, do not wrap bat behind head.
  • An imaginary line drawn from the left foot to the neck to the right foot and back to the left foot should form a nice, isosceles triangle, indicating a balanced body.

isoc_tri_040_36972_lg

Load

In order to swing with a quick and powerful hitter’s swing, the body and bat needs to be loaded properly. Technically, it is a plyometric, pre-stretch of the muscle groups which allow for an explosive muscle fiber contraction and a quick, powerful swing. I tell hitter’s in my coaching sessions that it’s like shooting a rubber band at your sister. Do you take that big, thick, Sunday morning paper rubber band and only pull it back an inch before firing it in the direction of their beloved sister? Heck no! You pull that rubber band back as far as you can so you can fire it at that beloved sibling with explosive speed and power.

A baseball swing is just like this, and with a bonus. You can not only hit the ball hard every time at bat, but you can sleep well knowing that sister is not planning late-night revenge upon your person. Win-win situation.

The Load

  • Loose, relaxed grip on bat from a loose, relaxed body.
  • Bouncy – Athletes move on the balls of their feet, not flat-footed or with weight on the heels.
  • Hitter’s rhythm – rock side to side, when one heel comes off the ground the weight shifts to the other heel on the ground. Hitters should naturally rock with this rhythm almost unconsciously, even when just standing around. (It’s how we find each other in the crowd…look for the guys rocking back and forth in hitter’s rhythm).
  • Load – When weight rocks to back foot, the hands load to the back shoulder and lock into place. The rubber band has been pulled and now you are ready to stride and stick the perfect hitting position.

Offseason work

The great thing about these simple drills is the young hitter can perform them over and over and over again in front of a mirror from the comfort of the house all winter long without fear of breaking the new lamp or swinging a bat into the family’s new 52” HD television in the living room.

  • Bouncy Feet vs. Flat Feet – feel the difference between athletic feet (on ball of feet) vs. Coach Hays’s fat, old man feet (flat feet) as you hop 10 times with each style. Then do 10 side-to-side hops with each style.
  • Rock and Rhythm – a relaxed back and forth movement to train body the quiet weight shift of a hitter.
  • Rock, Rhythm and Load – check for proper load position, especially with lower hand to back shoulder.
  • Load, Stride, Freeze – check yourself for proper hitting position in the mirror.

 Hitting Position Breakdown of Eric Hosmer

 HosmerFrontViewHosmerSideView

Here are a front and side freeze frame from the Vine video of Eric Hosmer’s home run in the 12th inning in the ALDS against the Angels. Hitting position. I froze the video when his stride foot hit the ground. Almost perfect. He naturally loads his bat a little further back than his shoulder, which runs a fine line between his compact swing when he’s hot and if he loads the bat even an inch or so further back. The further back a hitter loads, the straighter his arm becomes in the load beyond 45° the longer and slower his swing.

He is also shown here landing on the ball of his stride foot. As he swings and opens up the weight shifts back to his heel. His style, but one thing Hosmer does when he’s in a slump is land more on his heel than ball of his foot. When he does that his back shoulder dips, his arm straightens and his swing is long.

Right now, he’s money. Right now, he’s sticking his hitting position.

Hitting a baseball is not rocket science.

But, hitting with a fundamentally sound, consistent hitting position is the science of hitting rockets.

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Attitude & Confidence

It’s been awhile since the last Coach Hays rant. I am getting older, wiser, and possibly even settling down into a maturity level fitting of my middle-aged-ness. Well, maybe not completely.

We, as a sports community in our town, are working on turning around our programs. Turning around programs is an undertaking. Where’s the first place to start when undertaking such an endeavor?

It’s not facilities or fields, it’s not uniforms or equipment, nor is it pre-game/post-game events.

The start of change begins with attitude and confidence.

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Attitude

I used to start summer football conditioning with this speech.

“Would all 6’5″ offensive lineman please stand up.”

Nobody would stand up.

“Would all 6’3″, 215 lb. safeties who hit like a cannon shot please stand up.”

Nobody would stand up.

“Would all running backs who run 4.4 second 40’s stand up.”

Nobody would stand up.

The boys would laugh a nervous laugh, there would be a few snide remarks concerning the mental stability of their coach, then I would deliver the goods in my outside voice.

“We don’t have those physical attributes here in our town.  We don’t have those physical attributes sitting here on this floor.  But, I know what we do have.  We have a lot of bad ass SOB’s sitting right here.  We have kids who will fight and compete until somebody makes them stop.  IF, and I say, IF, you listen to me and do what we ask you to do, this strength and conditioning program will turn you into a human weapon. You will hit people harder than they have ever been hit.  You will play with such intensity and fire you will wreck havoc and create chaos.  We may not be big, we may not be fast, but we can be weapons!”

That’s attitude. That’s the attitude we had to have to be successful, the attitude necessary to compete with teams bigger, stronger, and faster than we were.

It starts with attitude.

We need to put a chip on our shoulder and claim our place among the elite.

As Coach Lane once told the team in this quote from G. K. Chesterton,

“They don’t write fairy tales to teach children that dragons exist…They write fairy tales to teach children that DRAGONS CAN BE KILLED.”

Time to slay some dragons, boys.

Dream it. Work for it. Do it.

Confidence

The attitude has to be paired with confidence.

  • Confidence is developed through repetition and work.
  • Confidence is developed through technical proficiency of the sports skills.
  • Confidence is developed through challenge and overcoming failure.
  • Confidence comes from earned praise and performance.

Royals pitcher James Shields said something very interesting this past week in an interview before his start in the 2014 American League Wild Card Game. The reporter asked him when the season turned around for the team. He pointed to the players-only meeting after the post-All Star Game losing streak. When pushed for what happened in the meeting, I expected Shield relating a story of some fiery, arguments and challenges between the players. Instead, he said something very surprising.

He said two mid-season Royals acquisitions, veterans Raul Ibanez and Scott Downs, who both were picked up from other MLB organizations, addressed the young Royals in the meeting. From their outsider point of view, the two told the team just how talented they were and how much potential the rest of the league saw in the Kansas City clubhouse. Shield said he could almost see the light going on in the players’s eyes around the room, he saw the confidence of the team rise as the players realized they were, or could be, a top-notch team. Things changed from there. The young players needed a little nudge of confidence, they needed someone from the outside to give them this jolt.

Confidence, backed up by hard work and attitude, leads to success.

Confidence, backed up by hard work and attitude, means you can compete with anyone.  You can slay the dragons.

I believe in our athletes. I believe we can succeed.

Gentlemen, you can do this. Puff out your chest and get to the business of being the best you can be.

W.E.B.A.T.T.

(We Belong At The Top)

 

 

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Morning Royals Conversation

The Kansas City Royals did it again last night. They opened the American League Division Series at Anaheim against the Angels with a dramatic extra-inning win. Mike Moustakas, barely able to hit his weight all season long, hit a home run in the top of the 11th for the go-ahead run and newly-minted father, closer Greg Holland, slammed the door with another impressive save. Good defense, led by Nori Aoki’s “chasing butterflies” style of outfield defense in right field, timely hits, and strong pitching won out.

The game started late and ended late, the second stroke of midnight win in three days. Not surprisingly, the Mrs. Hays did not make the stunning conclusion of either game this week. According to her, though, she did put her two cents in toward the postseason victories this week. Here is the first morning conversation of the day:

Me: “The Royals WON again. Moose hit a homer in the 11th!”

Wife: “That’s nice. It’s only because I went to sleep.”

Me: “Well then, can you go to sleep a little earlier for tonight’s game? I’m tired.”

Wife: “You’re dumb.”

(Note: This last statement is absolutely true. I am dumb, but I’m ROYALS DUMB!!!!)

Good luck tonight, Royals. Take the first two games out west and come home to wrap up the series. I’ll do my part, perhaps a large, starch-laden pre-game meal, and make sure Mrs. Hays makes the trip to La La Land a wee bit earlier tonight so your plane can leave at a decent hour.

Royals_images

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The Return of the Magic Number

In my pre-teen and teen years, the Kansas City Royals went from being a cute, little expansion team into one of the most feared, most respected, and most successful organizations in Major League Baseball. It was around 1976, at the age of 12, where I became familiar with a new term associated with my beloved Royals. The Magic Number.

What is a Magic Number, you may ask? Well the masterminds of the world wide web define the term better than I could ever attempt:

(from Wikepedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_number_(sports))

In certain sports, a magic number is a number used to indicate how close a front-running team is to clinching a division title and/or a playoff spot. It represents the total of additional wins by the front-running team or additional losses (or any combination thereof) by the rival team after which it is mathematically impossible for the rival team to capture the title in the remaining games. This assumes that each game results in a win or a loss, but not a tie

The magic number is calculated as G + 1 − WA − LB, where

  • G is the total number of games in the season
  • WA is the number of wins that Team A has in the season
  • LB is the number of losses that Team B has in the season

See, easy peasy. Mathematics and sports.

The Magic Number played big in my life in the late 70’s and early 80’s. These were pre-24-hour news cycle days. There was no streaming games scores, no checking scores on the smartphone. The only phone was wired to the wall and provided little or no help to the sports enthusiast.  So every morning, I would bounce out of bed, get my bowl of Raisin Bran, open the Kansas City Times (the old morning version of the Kansas City Star) and check the Royals Magic Number Box for the latest update on the race for the playoffs. My day would often revolve around whether positive or negative information was gleaned from that particular sports news graphic.

It is with great joy that, as a newly-minted, 50-year old, I again enjoy the Royals Magic Number during this summer/fall of 2014.

Thank you, Kansas City Royals.

Keep counting down that Magic Number.

PLAYOFFS, BABY!!!!

Royals_images

 

 

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A Past Post – “Game Of Tears: September 14, 2001″

(Author’s Note: Of all the things I’ve written on this blog, this post from 2013 is something I am probably most proud of. I really had forgotten about the football events around the 9/11 disaster until last year. For some reason, it all came flooding back in a full-bore emotional wave. It was tough to revisit; it struck an emotional nerve, a serious emotional nerve. This 9/11, say a prayer, take a moment to remember, be a little nicer to your fellow man, and smile away the small problems in life.) 

It was Football Friday Night in America. Maybe it shouldn’t have been. Believe me, it was hotly debated before the decision was made to move forward with the week’s scheduled games. This was no ordinary Football Friday Night, this was the Football Friday Night a mere 80 hours after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. It was also only one of two times I’d been brought to tears associated with a football game, either as a coach or a player.

CONTACT/S: 30 Exhibition -ACP

In the grand scheme of things, football is not life. Sure there are ups and downs, wins and losses, injuries and triumphs all associated with this great game. Even so, I’ve never really felt the need to cry over a sport, even one I am so passionate about. But on that night, September 14, 2001, standing on a football field in my homeland of Wyandotte County, KS, tears streamed down my face from the emotion of that awful week in American history.

The powers that be in the state decided to go ahead and play the scheduled games that Friday. I don’t envy the people who made that decision; it had to be a difficult one to say the least. But we needed to move forward, we needed to establish a normalcy in our own backyards. We needed  to find some way to accept the inexplicable tragedy and restore some means of logic into our lives.

At Tuesday practice the evening of the tragic events, all I remember is that we were shell-shocked. I don’t recall much from that afternoon except trying to establish some sort of normal practice within the quagmire of shock. And these poor teenage boys asked question after question of which there were no answers to.

After we watched the horrific images on television, we tried to cope with the unimaginable event as best we could for the next two days. America was attacked on its own soil by terrorist. As hard as it was, we tried to keep this on the periphery and keep a football focus in order to give the kids a place to escape the tragedy, if only for a few hours.

Friday came. Game day. We made a two and a half hour bus trip to Kansas City Piper High School. The normal pre-game preparations ensued as game time crept closer. I was looking forward to this trip because this game was in Wyandotte County. I was born and raised in Wyandotte County, it is in my blood. It is a tough-minded place that produced tough-minded people. The whole Kansas City family was there and my own family made the trip also. I felt a great sense of pride coming home coaching the visiting team against a school I really hadn’t liked since the misguided days of my youth.

Both teams lined up before the game in the middle of the football field. Uniform color did not matter one bit as the kids and coaches and officials stood together for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks. So there I stood in silence, the soil of my homeland holding me onto a planet tipping wildly out of control, questions and chaos threatening to punt me into the stratosphere of despair.

The moment of silence seemed to last forever and a day. There was nothing but stillness and quiet. No whispers and no jokes from even the most immature of teenage boys. No noise from the large crowds gathered, the traffic seemed to freeze in time and even the sun dove for the horizon in hues of orange across the cloud-tinged blue sky. Solemn. The very meaning of the word.

Then the National Anthem began and I think everyone within a ten mile radius of the stadium sang the Star Spangled Banner that night. It was beautiful. It was meaningful. Of the hundreds of times I’ve sang it in school and the thousands of times I’ve heard it at various events, it has never really hit an emotional string. But, this time, on Piper High School Field, mere days after terrorists attempted to destroy the very heart and soul of America, the national anthem hit home.

We sang it loud and we sang it poorly. Nobody cared. We were united. When we hit the last three lines, I think the true spirit, emotion, and meaning of the Star Spangled Banner flooded across me for the first time ever.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

I understood. The meaning was crystal clear. Our flag was still here, our country was still here, and it would take more than an act of terrorism to squash our spirit. The flood of emotions pent-up all week flowed down my cheeks in the tears. The horror, the sadness, the loss, the pain, and the total helplessness dripped with each salty tear from my eye.

I wasn’t sure whether it was right to play those games on the Friday night until that moment. It was the right thing to do. By moving forward with these sporting events it not only provided a distraction away from 24 hours of news coverage, it gave a reason for Americans to congregate and spend time with their community. It gave us a chance to begin the healing process.

We won more than a football game that night. We, as a group, learned to persevere and to move forward.

God Bless America!

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Apples and Crackers

When it came to coaching football, I was stupid. Seriously, most of the time, I was too oblivious to things going on outside of football while we were supposed to be doing football. Case in point, apples and crackers.

Apples and crackers? What in the heck do they have to do with football? Sit down, get a cool drink, and I’ll tell you.

It started with early season home JV games, you know those late August/early September HOT games. For this particular first home date, we played an area team who would bring both their freshman team and JV team over for a doubleheader. Me, as JV coach, thought (with the football coach’s blinders firmly in place) this would be a perfect opportunity to practice. Since our JV game would be starting a bit later than usual, we could get a full varsity team practice in. So, I made the last-minute, executive decision to practice instead of letting JV kids have some time off after school. Perfect. An extra almost-full practice. Priceless.

Well, maybe not. The first year we did this, we loaded the JV team up after the practice and drove to the stadium. We arrived about halftime of the freshman game. While standing around before warm-ups, a few of the kids talk about how hungry they are and how they had nothing to eat since lunch. Parents with high school boys are well aware of this time warp, which extends the hours between lunch and 6:00 PM into a seemingly 19-day fasting period for these youngsters. Long story short, I knew we would play like dookie and whine like cats in the bathtub if I didn’t find something for them to eat.

With the visual of 20+ angry mothers confronting me about not allowing their fine sons to eat before playing a JV football game, I scoot over to Coach Lane, explain the problem, and we coaches pool what little coaching cash we have for him to run to the store. He asked me what in the hell he should get for them. I went blank and when my brain kicked into gear, I blurted out the first two food items which entered my mind. Apples and crackers.

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Ten minutes later, after we are completely dressed out and the freshman game is about at the end of the third quarter, Coach Lane returns with four giant bags of Jonathan apples (my personal favorite) and four boxes of Zesta saltine crackers.

That night, the boys ate like kings. I’ve never seen young men enjoy a meal of two completely ridiculous “power” foods like those boys did that night. I was fortunate to grab two apples for my own dinner without losing a limb in the process. Those apples and those crackers disappeared in about two minutes. Smiles all around and life was good.

Game On!

Apples and crackers became a tradition for the first home JV game for the next several years. It was like a team banquet or something for these kids. Some still talk about it. The majority of the time, stupidity fades faster than a shot from a Roman candle. But, sometimes, there is a rare occasion where stupidity sticks and enjoys a long life. The incident of the apples and crackers was one of these rare events.

Live well, boys! Celebrate the start of the 2014 football season with an apple and a few saltine crackers.

Enjoy the snack with the zeal of youth.

Enjoy it for your football memories.

Most importantly, enjoy it for Friday Night in America.

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Football is NOT Life: Reprise 2014

I  wrote the blog post, Football is NOT Life, in 2010. I was two years out of my bad breakup with football coaching. The obsession with coaching the sport was waning and life, my real, actual life was beginning to seep back into its position of dominance in my psyche. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never experienced it. Football coaching, coaching in general, has a tendency to take over the way one thinks.

How would I block this play against this front? If they shift into this formation, how will our defense adjust?

Everything football all the time. Every day, all year long, probably 50% on average of all my thought processes circled back to football. That percentage probably jumped to 80% during the season. Analysis of every, single detail to find a way to be better. Every day.

Devising not only a Plan A and a Plan B, but a Plan C through Z also, just in case.

I wrote this mostly for me. I was the guilty party. I needed to put this on paper and post it to always remind me, Football is not life, life is life.

I am also re-posting the original blog piece for you.  You know, you folks out there who have let things slip out of focus. The ones who are half crazed with the emotion and the frustration and the disappointment associated with sports, especially when things are heading south in a hurry.

Everybody wants to win, it is written in the marrow of our bones. However, not everybody can win and we need to remind ourselves there are worse things in life than losing a game of football, no matter how much it hurts.

Respect the kids and respect the coaches. Respect the work and effort everyone invests, no matter how disappointing the outcome is. Use games and sports to build character in our young people, not to expose poor character.

Please read this post and think about it.  If it helps, then pass it on to the next person before we adults take all the fun out of this great game.

 

(originally posted on September 21, 2010)

FOOTBALL IS NOT LIFE 

I know this may sound highly irrational and maybe even a bit hypocritical coming from me, but contrary to what the t-shirts say, FOOTBALL IS NOT LIFE!.

Football is the greatest damn game ever invented, but it is not life.  Football is intensity, competitiveness, sportsmanship and violence, but it is not life.  Football requires immense strategy and teamwork, but it is not life.  Football provides education, drama, entertainment, and a solidarity which binds communities, campuses and fan bases throughout the nation, but it is not life.  Football is universal, it is played by presidents and paupers, genius and idiot, big and small, aggressive and passive, rich and poor, but it is not life.  Football should not be all consuming.  Football should not be the top priority.  I know this for a fact, I have tripped and fallen down this hole before (see my story).

Football can be like a package of Oreos, both need to be consumed in moderation.  You’ve been there, you opened the package of Oreos and left it out on the counter.  Sooner, rather than later, the whole package is gone and you don’t feel so good.  But if you open that package and only take a couple of Oreos and place the package in the cupboard for a later date, they not only taste spectacular, but last and satisfy for days upon days.  Football is not life.  It should be taken in moderation and/or with a tall glass of milk, (1% or skim preferably).

Football has it’s proper place, it has it’s proper perspective. Football is not the primary reason for the existence of high schools, colleges and universities.

Yes, football is important.  It is important to compete.  It is important to work hard to be the best coach or player you can be.  It is important to compete with purpose, pride and passion.  But I think Coach Paul Lane said it best with his prioritization of the sport, “Faith, Family, Football, in that order”.

Football is important to me.  But football is not life.  Let’s work to keep football in it’s proper perspective and place. I would hate for you to get a football belly-ache.

WilsonFootball

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