Common Hitting Problems
Striding Open - "Stepping in the Bucket"
This is a problem at all levels of baseball, but is most associated with youth baseball.
At the youth level the problem usually occurs in a player that is afraid of being hit. The fear of being hit affects most young baseball players. Young pitchers that don't have much control can often throw very hard. This combination gives many kids a real fear of stepping into the batter's box. This fear of being hit affects their ability to develop a good swing and approach at the plate. In addition it quickly reduces confidence and enjoyment of the game.
The younger they are, the more chance that they will freeze when a pitched ball is thrown at them. Often they try to get away from the ball by backing away. This puts them in a position to get hit in the side or front of the body or possibly the face. Once a hitter has been hit a couple of times, it can be a major task for them to overcome those painful experiences. See Fear of being hit on how to teach a hitter how to get out of the way.
When a player is comfortable getting out of the way, he will have much more confidence stepping up to the plate and staying in there. You have to convince him that by stepping out he is putting himself in a much worse position than if he stays in and gets out of the way properly.
At higher levels of baseball the problem often occurs in a player who doesn't believe he can handle the inside fastball. By striding open, the player feels he can be quicker in getting his hips and hands through on the inside pitch. Of course this puts him in a poor position to handle the outside or off-speed pitch.
To fix this problem requires a few of steps.
- You have to determine why the player can't handle the inside fastball. Is he standing too close to the plate? Is he using a bat he can't handle? Does he have a slow looping swing? Is he not picking up the pitch at the point of release? Whatever it is, you need to help the player determine why he is having problems handling the pitch. Fixing that problem will help him gain confidence in handling the inside heat, which will make it easier to fix the open stride.
- Help them develop a strategy that takes that pitch out of the equation until he's at two strikes. If he isn't going to swing at an inside fastball with 0 or 1 strike, he can take a stride that will allow him to handle every other pitch.
- Work with him on adjusting his stance so he can stride a little closed. One way to do this is have him open his stance up slightly and then as he strides he can stride toward the pitcher and the plate. The goal is to end up with his feet being parallel to the pitcher.
As an aid to help a player you can place a bat or a 2x4 or something else behind the player after he gets in his stance. This can be parallel to the pitcher if you want the stride to be straight or angled slightly if you want the player to stride slightly closed. Either way this can really help the player realize where they are striding. Without it, a player is usually in such a habit of striding open that they don't realize they are doing it. Which can make it difficult for them to correct.