The Balanced Stance
A Batter's Best Friend
By Barbara Jordan
Assistant Coach, Cal State Northridge
In our last article we discussed how to choose a bat that is right for you. This article is part two of a hitting series. We will explain the importance of a balanced stance and the importance of balance.
THE GRIP - Before we get into our stance we will find the proper grip for your hands on the bat. Place your bottom hand on the handle of the bat, just above the knob. If the bat is too long or too heavy, you may want to choke up and place your hand an inch or two above the knob on the handle of the bat. Grab the bat with your top hand just above your bottom hand. Grip the bat like you would grab a hammer. The pads of your top hand should be around the handle. You want to make sure that you are gripping the bat with your hand and not the palms of your hand. Keep the bat out of the gully of your hand. This is the gap between your index finger and your thumb. Your top hand thumb will rests on your index finger or the index finger and middle finger. This will vary depending on how long your fingers are. The top hand wrist should be cocked slightly so that it is underneath the handle of the bat. This will help generate a quicker swing. Remember to keep the grip firm but loose on the bat. The tighter the grip, the slower your swing will become.
THE STANCE - The most successful stance is a balanced stance. Think about any athlete performing a move from a stationary position...a soccer goalie getting ready to defend a penalty kick, a quarterback making a throw or a hitter preparing to hit a pitched ball. What these different athletes have in common with their balanced position is strength and quickness. A balanced stance allows the athlete to drive their power through their target instead of losing power by falling away from their target. In our case, we are driving our power through the pitched ball. Balance also aids in the function of body parts uncoiling in sequence to perform a desired task.
LOWER BODY - First we will set up your feet. The feet should be parallel and set in a straight line directly across from each other. They should be shoulder width apart. A little wider than the shoulders or a little shorter is OK, as long as the batter can feel their weight on the inside part of their legs. The knees should be bent. This will help the batter keep their weight on the inside part of their legs. The knees should be just on the inside of each foot. This also should help you feel the weight on the inside of the legs.
UPPER BODY - Your waist will have a slight bend in it. The hands should be held between your back ear and your shoulder. The hands should not go past your back shoulder and should be higher than your shoulder in height. The top hand should be close enough to your body so that your top hand forearm could flex its bicep. Basically this means that your back elbow should have great flexion. The front elbow is bent, hanging down and is relaxed. The back elbow is down and away from the body. This will also help increase bat speed during the swing. The shoulders should be squared to the plate. The knob of the bat should point directly across the plate, as if you were looking in the mirror and pointing the knob at the reflection. The knob of the bat should not face the catcher. The barrel of the bat should be on an angle over the shoulder.
Remember that the top hand wrist is cocked underneath the handle of the bat. This will place the barrel on an angle over your shoulder. If the top hand wrist is on the outside of the handle, towards the catcher, this will decrease bat speed and result in more of a pushing action when swinging.
The head of the body should be directly over the belly button. The chin should be looking over the front shoulder. The head should not tilt. Two eyes should be looking out at the pitcher at the release point. If the head is tilted the batter will most likely be using only one eye for good vision.
The key for the stance is good alignment with the body. By this we mean that the knees are inside the feet, the hips are over the knees, and the shoulders are over the hips. Keep the body loose and in rhythm. Keep the eyes on the pitcher looking softly at her before she begins her windup. As she begins her motion, focus hard on her hip at the release point because you are ready to hit!