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.
So far, in your quest to make contact, you’ve learned how to set up, practiced your stride, and taken on the finer points of flat-hand hitting. You’re now ready to make contact – and on your way to becoming a successful hitter. But, that all depends on the pitch.
With an inside pitch, whether it’s a fastball or off-speed, the basic stride and swing fundamentals do not change; only the release of the hands changes. By “release,” I mean making a conscious choice to go after the pitch and fire the bat at the ball. And I mean fire, take a rip, be aggressive.
When an offering is coming inside, you want to commit earlier than when the pitch is headed to the outside or down the heart of the plate. It will get your hands – and therefore the bat head – through the contact zone sooner, allowing you to get your hips into the swing quicker.
On an inside pitch, the barrel of your bat should be parallel with your hands on contact. If you’re doing things really well, the barrel should be beyond home plate.
Knowing how and at what point to hit the ball isn’t the entire equation, though – you have to make sure you hit it!
In baseball, everyone wants to hit home runs – be remembered along the lines of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron or Albert Pujols, and feel the thrill of rounding the bases. But not all of us – in fact, very few of us, are natural home run hitters. We don’t have the size or the strength to win a home run derby.
Fact is, to be a successful hitter, one must realize how strong your ego can be and realize your hitting strength isn’t quite as powerful. I can’t even count all the times that a single would have won a game just as easily as a home run, only to watch some big lug swinging for the fences. It’s the same from Little League on…so many big swings and so little contact.
So, if you’re consistently striking out or missing pitches, dial down a bit on your swing and concentrate on contact.
And finally, you must put the finishing touches on the process.
Therefore, as a line-drive hitter, a gap hitter, it’s crucial to follow through on contact, extending your arms and the head of the bat. It’s the only way I know that we small guys can compete with the big boys.