For some, hitting a baseball is a matter of "see the ball, hit the ball."
Others use the "grip and rip it" method.
But men like John Mallee have made a science of hitting the white sphere.Mallee, the hitting coach for the Houston Astros, shared his considerable knowledge during a recent two-day youth clinic at Eastlake Chargers Baseball/Softball Academy in Elkhart. Mallee has been working with ECBSA co-director and co-founder Joel Mishler for 15 years.
As a hitting instructor with the Florida Marlins, Mallee pronounced May-Lee) got the chance to work with an up-and-comer named Miguel Cabrera.
"Miguel had a natural gift," said Mallee, who got an up-close look at the first several years of Cabrera's professional career. "He had all the attributes of a great hitter anyway. I didn't teach Miguel Cabrerra anything."
In Mallee's approach to hitting, he does not teach styles. It's all about absolutes.
1. Go back before you go forward (lower half load).
2. Walk away from the hands (stride-separate).
3. Keep head in-between feet (maintain dynamic balance, center, axis).
4. Start swing with lower half, ground up (foot, knee, hips, hands last).
5. Take a straight line to and through the ball (stay inside).
6. Maintain balance throughout the swing. These absolutes are "things that have to happen in the swing for any hitter," says Mallee.
Through the use of biokinetics (the study of the forces involved in movements of the body) and video analysis, Mallee teaches hitters to be their own coach.
"We try to let the hitter have his own style and natural rhythm and make sure that they fit these absolutes into their swing," says Mallee.
Through analysis, Mallee teaches what he considers the most efficient way to create bat speed and force.
In explaining Absolute No. 1, Mallee says it is a subtle move back that allows the batter to be ready to hit while getting into motion and overcoming inertia (the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion).
The emphasis is on subtlety.
"Most kids they want to weight transfer back too far and then they get out of balance," says Mallee. "It's no difference than throwing a punch or throwing a ball.
"You want your first move to gather your weight against your back side because it gives you more weight to transfer into the ball."
As hitting coach with the Houston Astros since October 2012, Mallee works with the lineup with a current average age of just over 24 among its projected eight position-player 2014 starters.
"I have a young team," says Mallee. "(My job is) getting them to know their strengths and weaknesses as a hitter - from an approach standpoint and a mechanical basis."
Mallee works with his hitters on making a daily plan while adding to strengths and shoring up weaknesses.
"They are very subtle changes," says Mallee. "These guys are pros. They get it. The majority of the time it doesn't come down to the swing. It comes down to the approach and the plan in the (batter's) box."