When a baseball is flying directly at a young hitter at blurring speed, it’s easy to see why the sport is called “hardball.”
The pain at the moment of impact is unforgettable.
It can also instill a fear that can last forever.
With a little help, however, even a deeply bruised player can return to the batter’s box with fresh courage, according to Rick Saggese, owner of Think Outside the Diamond, a Naples, Fla., company that helps kids and adults with baseball and softball skills.
“I always tell kids that the best way to overcome fear is to face it,” he said.
One of the best ways to overcome this fear is to learn the proper technique of getting out of the way.
The technique: turn the back and head away from the pitcher and face the backstop; tuck the head, pinch the shoulder blades together so the neck is protected by the helmet; drop to one knee.
“You're bending over, your eyes are looking right at the belt buckle. Everything’s kind of tucked in — like a snail in a shell,” Saggese said.
“If the ball hits you above the waist, your back is arching downward, like a ramp. It’s not going to be a flush shot. For it to be a flush shot, it has to hit you below the waist, where there is more muscle: the butt, hamstrings.
“By doing this, you’re (exposing as) much of the surface area of your body,” Saggese continued. “The important thing is that you’re not exposing the elbows, the arms, the neck, any part of the head.”
Don’t forget the bat, Saggese adds.
“If the bat is sticking up and the ball hits the bat, it could be a fair ball or foul ball,” he said, “so you to want them to take bat down with you.”
The lesson doesn’t end there. A player might appear to master this, only to duck or bail out of the box in live action.
So Saggese stands 10-15 feet away from the batter’s box and begins throwing tennis balls at the non-swinging hitter.
“By actually being hit, they see and realize: `Hey, it isn’t so bad,’” he said. “I can talk to kids all day, tell them not to be afraid of the ball. But this is the best way to overcome this fear, and for it to last.
“You need to practice the proper technique, like anything else.”
From GameChanger and Clay Latimer, a freelance reporter for Red Line Editorial, Inc.