Throughout my years as a private hitting coach, a piece of advice I'd often say to ballplayers I trained was, "as hitters, we're only as good as the pitches we swing at". This is why I would often incorporate plate awareness drills by familiarizing them with the Strike Zone for Wiffle Ball pitches.
Training to hit wiffle balls with a strike zone for context is powerful because you're training in a controlled environment, you can work in a lot of reps in a short amount of time, and get direct feedback while making practice feel like a game!
Just like how it should be!
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Not many people are aware of the origins of the wiffle ball, even though it’s been around since the 50s.
In this short guide, we’ll try to answer some of the most common questions people may have regarding wiffle balls. These questions will mainly gravitate towards:
- how to throw various wiffle ball pitches
- the general benefits of wiffle ball training
- how to make your own wiffle ball strike zone
- different types of wiffle ball games to keep things fun and fresh during practice.
Wiffle Ball Pitch Grips
The thing I like most about using wiffle balls, are the various types of pitches almost anyone can learn to achieve high-level movement and break on pitches.
Most of the progress my hitters made with adjusting to the curveball and slider was while taking live reps with a wiffle ball. Simulating live situations in a controlled environment is how hitters get better. Period.
How do you throw different pitches in wiffle balls?
To achieve different pitches while throwing a wiffle ball, you have to concentrate on your finger positioning relative to the ball. Your wrist and the rest of your body will play a huge role in your pitching as well.
Apart from the fastball (which we just covered), these are some of the most common pitching techniques:
- SLIDER: Spiral the ball like a football, aiming low and following your swing all the way through.
- DROP: With the holes facing up, place the thumb and index/middle finger on the sides and the ring finger below for stability. The ring and index finger should be the last ones touching the ball upon release to give it the necessary “spin.” Slightly dip and rise before launch.
- RISER: The holes should face downward. Aim low and release the ball at about 1 foot from ground level.
Why Play Wiffle Ball?
Rain Delays - getting on the field may not be an option. However, you can always get a quick pickup game on the side to stay loose while we wait for the umpire to give us the go-ahead.
To Remember The Sandlot Philosophy - if being at the yard stops being fun, whats the point?
Clean the slate - at the end of the day, hitting is about making hard contact. It's not about the stats, mechanics, or where you're hitting in the lineup. Hitting is about swinging with intent. We can remind ourselves of this by turning our practices into a game.
Fun Wiffle Ball Games
- A hit counts only if it was driven to the opposite field.
- Great way to teach hitters how to drive the ball the other way.
- Anything pulled is considered an out.
Last Man Standing
- If you don't get a hit, you're out of the game.
- Like musical chairs but for hitting a wiffle ball.
Points Vs Points
- All hitters hit on one side, then all hitters hit on the other side.
- Whichever team has the most points after the game, or time limit, wins.
- The game will last for Five innings.
- 10-run “mercy rule” applies after three complete innings.
- Two outs only are allowed per inning for each team.
- To keep things quick, five balls equal a walk and two strikes count as an out.
- In extra innings, both teams will start the inning with the bases loaded.
How do you make a wiffle ball strike zone size?
To build a strike zone for wiffle ball, you should get, among other things:
- A PVC pipe;
- joints, elbows, and PVC primer and glue for the connections;
- a metal sheet (usually aluminum) with holes at the edges; and
- zip ties.
In terms of size, your strike zone should be 30 inches long and 20-22 inches wide. It’d also have to be 24 inches above the ground at the lowest point and separated from the home plate by 3 inches.
To proceed, you should cut the PVC pipe as follows:
- 23 inches for the top;
- 31 inches for the sides (two pieces);
- one 11-inch and two 3-inch pieces for the bottom; and
- 12 inches for the stand (consisting of six pieces).
To assemble the PVC framing, begin by connecting the sides with the top bar using a T-junction and then attach the bottom bar. Reinforce these bindings using PVC primer and glue,
Next, move on to the base (without gluing it to the top half for portability purposes). Lastly, affix the metal sheet to the top half of the structure using zip ties.
Optionally, you can use spray paint for decoration, but remember to allow the paint coat to dry after application and _before _securing the sheet.
What can I use as a wiffle ball strike zone?
To ensure durability, a strike zone for the wiffle ball should be made primarily with PVC pipes and an aluminum sheet, as said earlier.
Which is what we use with our Applied Vision Sports - Wiffle Ball Set.
What is a good size for a wiffle ball field?
There are no universal size standards for wiffle ball fields, considering there's a multitude of organized leagues with different rules. Regardless, using the New Baltimore Wiffle Ball League rules as a reference, the recommended dimensions would be:
- 35 feet between bases and 45-50 between home and second base;
- 40-42 feet from the mound to the home plate;
- 95 feet to the left and right field foul poles; and
- 105 feet to centerfield.
If you want an optimally-sized wiffle ball field in your backyard, make sure it’s at least 50 feet long and 10 feet wide.
How much does it cost to build a wiffle ball strike zone?
Costs will hinge entirely on the materials you use (and the area you live in).
However, if you plan on using the standard materials, expect to pay around US$50-70 between the PVC, the T-junctions, the elbow joints, the zip ties, and the metal sheet.
How far should a wiffle ball mound be?
The pitcher's mound ought to be preferably around 40-42 feet from the home plate’s tip (refer to question #3).
Does hitting wiffle balls help ballplayers?
You bet. Consistent hard contact only happens when a hitter recognizes spin, speed, and location efficiently. Hitting is about being on time. Pitching is about upsetting that timing.
Secondly, wiffle ball training serves as a useful gateway to get kids acquainted with live pitching.
This is because both the wiffle ball and bat are relatively lightweight, so kids can grab and swing them comfortably without fear of getting injured or hurt.
This also gives beginners enough leeway to practice their hand-eye coordination and develop an aggressive approach without having to cope with the fear factor.
Generating a love for the game is the foundation.
How do you throw a fastball in a wiffle ball?
To throw a fastball, you place two fingers on the top holes and the thumb on the bottom. You wouldn’t want to hold the ball too tight or too loose. If you hold it too tight, you risk releasing the ball beyond the intended timeframe, whereas if you soften your grip, the ball could launch sooner.
Also, pay attention to your legwork. Your legs’ movement will give you the needed power boost to throw the ball as fast as you can.
Can you use wiffle balls in a pitching machine?
You could definitely use a pitching machine to practice and hone your batting skills.
In all, the strike zone for wiffle balls is about keeping it fun. Baseball is a game and it's meant to be played. When we're having fun, we play well. When the sport becomes about outcome and stats, our abilities suffer for the worst.
Want to learn a bit more about spin types and movement at the higher levels? Check out this video I made on "How to identify pitch types."
Understanding Pitch Movements
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