By Rod Carew
Editor's Note: Rod Carew was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1991. He won seven American League batting titles and retired with 3,053 career hits. He is one of baseball's most sought-after hitting instructors. A few players who have blossomed under his watchful eye include: Jim Edmonds, Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson, Torii Hunter and Darin Erstad.
Long before he was the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Don Mattingly was a phenomenal first baseman for the New York Yankees who was one of the best hitters of his time. So a compliment from him certainly goes a long way.
"Rod Carew influenced me a lot," Mattingly said during in his playing days. "Watching him use the whole field has helped make me the hitter I am today. He goes up there with a lot of different stances for different pitchers, but the bottom line on Rod Carew is he hits the ball where it's pitched."
It's a compliment I never took lightly from a player I held in high regard.
Indeed, much of my success came, because, when I made contact, I hit the ball all over the field.
Of course the key to making good contact doesn't begin and end with the contact itself. Naturally, the hitting process begins when you step into the batter's box.
Don't make a huge production of digging a hole for your back foot or smoothing the dirt or anything like that. All that does is make it that much clearer to the catcher your exact location in the box. I tried to actually cover up the holes that other guys left, because I liked a flat surface. I settled in easy and when I decided where to stand - which was the back, inside edge of the box - I made sure I had proper plate coverage, meaning my bat could reach pitches off the outside corner. My front leg remained, ready to open or close depending on my opposition. My weight was distributed onto my back leg, saving me the time of rocking back as the pitcher began his windup. My hands were held about letter high, a foot or so from my body, holding the bat loosely. My bat was nearly parallel to the ground. For me, it was a comfortable start.
Granted everyone is different, but being comfortable is important, so following my exact example might not be the right thing for you. But you want to avoid the extremes – like hands held stationary well above the shoulder or down below the waist. Both contribute to increased, unnecessary movement and long, looping swings that limit reaction time and prevent you from proper arm extension.
What you're shooting for next is crucial to being a good hitter. You're looking for a rhythmic glide into the ball; a balanced, streamlined weight shift, and an aggressive swing. This is the beginning of the path to making contact - a process the GAPHitter is perfect for practicing.