"Where Do You Look When Hitting a Baseball?" We get this question often from ballplayers looking to develope superior pitch recognition skills.
As hitters, knowing "where" to look and "when" while in the batter's box gives us the slight edge we need to slow the game down and anticipate the situation.
Once we dig in the batter's box, our job is to recognize spin, speed & location by having the right pitch recognition gaze sequence, which consists of:
- The Pitcher (Soft Focus)
- The Release Point Window (Hard Focus)
- Initial Movement (Read)
- Point of contact (Head down)
The Pitcher (Soft Focus)
An important aspect of seeing the ball as well as you can is making sure you're in the box with calm, focus.
A loose muscle is explosive. A tense muscle is tense and slow.
It's the same with the muscles around the eyes. What you want is to have a soft gaze that transitions into a hard gaze so that your visual faculties (depth-perception, dilation, tracking, recall, etc) can fire as efficiently as possible.
With a soft-focus, your eyes will sit on the pitcher or the logo of their hat. As the pitcher begins the wind-up, you prepare your transition from the soft-focus (Pitcher or hat logo) to the hard-focus (release point window).
If your eyes transition to the release point window too soon, your eyes will strain. If you get there too late, you'll struggle with reading the pitch out of the pitcher's hand efficiently.
The transition from the soft to hard focus should happen after the pitcher separates the ball from the glove and just as the pitcher begins their forward stride movement.
You can practice this as a pitch recognition drill in our pitch recognition training app.
The Release Point Window (Hard Focus)
As the pitcher prepares to release the pitch, your eyes shift from the pitcher to the window of where they release the pitch. Typically, two feet above and to the side of their throwing shoulder.
Some pitchers with a three-quarter or side-arm release have release points that are at shoulder height or below. You can establish the release point while watching the pitcher warm-up and while throwing against your teammates.
This phase of the pitch is the most crucial when attempting to recognizing spin, speed, and location.
Initial Movement (Read)
At this point, the ball is out of the pitcher's hand and begins to establish it's plane and decent.
The breaking ball tends to pop out of the pitcher's hand.
A good fastball will come in straight with a four-seam or with a little tail on a two-seam. Left-handed pitchers also will have natural movement on their pitches.
At this point, what you want to look out for is the various types of spin and shade the pitch has so you can identify pitch type and location.
Understanding what each pitch has a tendency of doing will give you an idea of what adjustments you need to make at the plate.
Your ability to recognize balls or strikes is showcased in this phase.
Knowing where to look at this point is how you demonstrate elite level pitch recognition skills.
Point of Contact (Head down)
A common hitting mistake I see young players make that ruins their ability to get the best look at pitches is looking up too soon after contact is made.
I get it. We all want to see where the ball goes especially when we feel like we squared it up...
...but keeping your eyes on the ball at point of contact and keeping it there just a tick longer after it will ensure that you're tracking the ball as long as possible.
Hitting is a game oh inches. Take every inch you're given.
Avoid looking up too soon. Keep your eyes on the ball as well as you can for as long as you can.
Where Do You Look When Hitting a Baseball - Checklist
Now that you know where to look as well as where to not look, you can let your pitch recognition skills work for you as you focus on what's most important. Winning The At-Bat.
Lastly, keep this Where Do You Look When Hitting a Baseball - Checklist in mind if you feel like you're not initiating the proper soft to hard focus transitions.
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