Opposite field hitting is what separates great hitters from average ones. I take tremendous pride in the fact that all of the CSB students learn how to take the ball to the opposite field with power through our program. Pitchers are taught from a young age that the low and outside strike has the lowest percentage of batted balls. This means pitchers from youth baseball up to the professional ranks try to establish the low and away pitch early and often. Learning how to effectively attack the low and away pitch can be the difference between a short or long career. Almost every hitter, beginning at the Varsity level of high school, can turn on a fastball. What separates one kid from another is the ability to go the opposite way with power.
Many coaches will over-teach the idea of hitting the ball to the opposite field. By "over-teach" I mean stressing the idea to the kid too many times. As coaches, we need to be careful in when and how much we emphasize a topic. With opposite field hitting, I see coaches teach kids to ONLY hit the ball the other way. In the last article we talked about vision and how vital it is. Vision, again, is the key to hitting the ball the other way consistenly. When we pound the idea into a kids head that they need to take the ball oppo, they will literally start trying to go inside out on middle and inn pitches. In my opinion, this is a devastating effect of how poor coaching can ruin a kids career. Once the player has the approach to go oppo with every pitch, he now locks himself out of the most power we have as a hitter.
At CSB, we believe the true power of a hitter comes close to his body, (a boxer's punches have more power, the closer the target). Coaches today are building a generation of players who can take the ball the opposite way well, but lack the ability to truely "turn" on the baseball. It seems in recent years that coaches at the College and Highschool levels have gotten away from the swing players used to hit the baseball over 600 ft (Mickey Mantle).
This all has to do with over teaching the concept of going oppo. At CSB we do not teach "lead with the knob" or "throw the hands". If your a player, and hear these terms often, then your coach has no clue about how to teach opposite field hitting. We are never going to guide the baseball the way we want it to go. As covered in earlier articles, "throwing the knob" will only lead to flyouts in foul ground and weak ground balls.
Vision is again the key. We always get vision on the baseball, which then tells us where the point of contact must be. Once we establish vision, and recognize the outside location as a hitter, the real science of going oppo comes into play.
"Let the baseball get deep".
This is probably the most important saying in hitting. Period. I have heard it from top flight collegiate coaches as well as hall of fame players. Hitting the ball to the opposite field with power has nothing to do with guiding the pitch. It has everything to do with letting the baseball get deep. What this saying really means is that as hitters, once the outside pitch is recognized, we must now let the baseball get to us.
Letting the baseball get deep will allow you as a hitter to not get fooled by off speed pitches that break late (sliders, cutters, curveballs). If a player does not get vision, then he must start his swing early to compensate, making letting the ball get deep impossible.
The reason we need to let the ball get deep to hit it with power to the opposite field is because of the point of contact. The point of contact on the outside pitch is IN FRONT of the body. Most Coaches today teach that on the outside pitch, the point of contact is almost at the back hip. This theory is incorrect.
As you can see below, the point of contact on an outside pitch is out in front of the body, and none are hitting the basball behind the back hip. Both Pujols and Mauer use what we at CSB call a "3/4 pivot" to drive the outside pitch. This is another concept of rotational hitting that we will cover in later articles under the topic of opposite field hitting.
Neither Pujols or Mauer are "guiding" the pitch to the opposite field. They are simply using the same rotational swing they would on an inside pitch, the only difference is the location being outside.
I cannot stress enough how important Vision is to the opposite field hitting equation. If we do not train our eyes at first, we will never be able to let the ball travel enough to be successful hitting the baseball to the opposite field.
(One side note: Notice the barrel of the bat in both pictures. The barrel is below the hands. Neither of these guys swing "down" on the baseball to create backspin. We will talk in depth about this in the next article on 'how to ruin a swing'.)
"Let the baseball get deep"