Jeff Phelps was a four-year starter while at Arizona State University. He played from 1998 to 2001, finishing with a career .334 batting average. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2001 and played in their farm system for four years, rising to Class AA Reading before retiring. Called one of the gutsiest players to wear a Sun Devil uniform by legendary coach Pat Murphy, Jeff offered 20 ways players at any level can become a great hitter.
1. Believe Through Preparation
“I can hit!” is a very powerful statement for a hitter. I probably got more hits by believing in myself as a hitter than believing in my perfect swing. Any good coach can pick out aws in your swing, but when you step into that box, you need to believe that you can hit. I believe that because I put in the preparation in every aspect of my game to get better. Even through struggles you have to believe you can hit.
2. Face the Ball, Not the Pitcher
As a hitter you should not care who is pitching against you. It does not matter if Billy the best pitcher in your town, or Clayton Kershaw is pitching that day. They still have to throw the ball over an 18-inch plate to get you out. So, when it crosses the plate where you like it, knock the cover off the ball.
3. Hit Line Drives and Ground Balls
Baseball percentages say that if you hit hard line drives and groundballs you help your team win. Hitting y balls to the out eld and pop-ups to the in eld usually results in a loss. Winning the baseball game is the goal, not seeing how many homeruns you can hit or how far you can hit the ball in the air.
4. Your Best At-bat is Your Next At-bat
Your most important at-bat is your rst at-bat. Learn as much about the pitcher as you can. See all his pitches at least once unless you get two strikes, then change your approach. Then your next at-bat you are more prepared to have a great AB. Learn something with every AB until you nd the chink in the armor. When the game is on the line in the last inning and he has already struck you out three times, you are prepared to come through for the team. What is a good AB? Getting your pitch to hit and hitting it squarely between the lines. Staying with the at-bat until the end even if you fall behind 0-2. Fighting tough pitches off until you get your pitch to hit and then doing something with it.
5. Important Stats
Everybody wants to focus on the homeruns and the batting averages, but winning hitters have high on-base percentages, slugging percentages, RBIs and runs scored. The more runners you get on base during the game the better chance to you have to win. So take your walks.
Walks lead to runs. Don’t get mad if you hit the ball and the elder makes an error and your batting average goes down. You did your job as a hitter - you got on base. Focus on the fact that you hit the ball hard, not that you didn’t get a hit.
6. See the Baseball
Seeing the baseball is the most over-talked about, but rarely emphasized aspect of hitting. Sometimes you can see what type of pitch is coming just by being focused on seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. That is a huge advantage. From the time the ball comes out of his hand, you must track it all the way in. When you are swinging at strikes it’s because you are seeing the ball long through the hitting zone. Even on your takes at the plate you should follow the ball all the way to the catcher’s glove.
7. Physically Ready
Physically ready means that you have your stride out of the way and your lead foot is down. Your head and eyes are still, as they wait for the moment to explode towards the pitch. It is almost like you have a 10th of a second before you start your swing and have to react to the pitch. This allows for an easy path to the ball.
8. Mentally Ready
Mentally ready means that you have a clear head. Your mind is not thinking about anything but hitting the ball. You are not worried about the consequences of the at-bat or the fans in the stands yelling at you. Your mind should think of one thing: the ball. Make your thoughts as simple as possible.
9. Palm Down
Throughout the swing, the bottom hand should stay parallel with the ground. The palm facing the ground and the back of the hand facing the sky. This will help you get through the baseball.
10. Too Many Socks in Your Top Drawer This was a saying at ASU when a hitter is thinking too much at the plate. It’s when you are trying to make sure you cross all your T’s, instead of just trusting your ability. The hitter is trying to think along with the pitcher instead of just reacting to what he sees. Do your thinking before you get in the box, not when you are waiting for the pitch to be thrown.
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