As young baseball players develop their hitting skills (hopefully while using a high-quality wood bat from Phoenix Bats!), they don’t see much pitch variety. Typically, they have not seen a baseball breaking towards them or moving away from them, purposefully.
In learning how to properly hit a pitch, the most important thing to understand is that the batter’s swing should not change—it’s all in the eyes.
HITTING A CURVEBALL STARTS WITH SEEING THE PITCH
The art of how to hit a curveball comes from recognizing the pitch as it’s thrown. This starts with learning how to pick up the rotation of the ball as soon as the pitcher has released it.
Step 1: Identify where to look for the baseball at the time the pitcher releases the ball
Knowing where the pitcher releases the ball—which commonly known as the release point—prepares you to identify the type of pitch they will throw. There are 3 general delivery types:
- Overhand Delivery – The pitcher's arm motion is parallel with their body, coming over top of their shoulder when the baseball is thrown
- Three-quarters Delivery – The pitcher's arm is extended approximately 2 feet away from the side of their body when they release the ball
- Sidearm Delivery – The pitcher's arm is extended out, away from their body when the ball is released, nearly perpendicular to their midsection.
The method used will vary by pitcher, however each pitcher will typically use the same delivery style each time.
Step 2: Focus on the pitcher's grip of the ball right before release
- If the pitcher's fingers are set up behind the ball, so you see just the fingertips at the point of delivery, it is likely going to be a fastball
- If the pitcher's fingers are set up more to the side of the ball, chances are it is a curveball
Step 3: Focus on pitch speed
Young pitchers have a strong tendency to slow down their pitching motion when throwing a curveball or changeup.
Understanding release points, recognizing how the pitcher is holding the ball, and assessing the speed of the pitch all help a young hitter properly recognize a curveball.
LEARNING HOW TO HIT IT
In a batter’s approach, they’ve become so used to hitting fastballs that when a slower curveball is thrown, they’re generally swinging too early—therefore making no contact at all.
Don’t Get Fooled!
The swing doesn’t have to change, but learning to keep the hands back in your swing can help.
- Normally a batter will have their hands moving forward along with their body when swinging
- Learn to keep their hands back helps the batter not be as easily fooled when that curveball or change up is thrown
- By keeping their hands back, the batter still has a chance to swing through the ball without swinging early
Quick Hitting Tips
Follow these easy tips to stay back and identify pitches early:
- Get your front foot down early enough before the pitcher releases the ball. This will help the hitter keep his/her eyes on a level plane so that he/she can see the release point, grip and spin of the ball. This will also help identify the pitch early. This way, the hitter doesn't get caught having to react to the off-speed pitch. Instead, he/she can be ready to hit it.
- Focus on trying to let the curveball travel or “get deep” in the hitting zone. Doing this will prevent the young hitter from swinging at the pitch while it's still curving from side to side, or in some cases, top to bottom. In letting the ball get deep, it makes it easier to put the barrel on the ball, and hit it to the opposite field with authority.
BE PATIENT! PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Hitting curveballs takes time. In batting practice, the batter can better learn how to keep their hands back. In live batting practice, they can start to learn the nuances of recognizing each pitch.
The art of hitting a round ball with a round bat is considered one of the hardest things to do in sports. And when young pitchers start throwing curveballs, it becomes that much harder. But, not to worry–young hitters can gain an advantage by learning the above steps and taking the advantage back from the pitcher.