I attended the 2019 ABCA Convention in Dallas, TX from January 3-6 (It is a wonderful event and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in coaching!). At the convention I was able to listen to Steve Springer speak about hitting. Springer enjoyed a 14-year career in professional baseball amassing 1,592 hits in 1,591 games with six different organizations. He previously worked as a performance coach for the Toronto Blue Jays where he instructed players about the mental game. Some of Springer’s clientele include MLB All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollack, Mark Trumbo, and Nolan Arenado.
Throughout the talk, Springer emphasized the importance for a hitter to have an approach. In his opinion, it is the most important part about hitting! He teaches the approach through a few simple ideas that kids can start implementing immediately in their game. Like any physical skill, they need to be worked on and practiced so they can transfer to games.
The first point Springer made was 90% of a hitter’s success is about walking up to the plate with confidence. This is so hard for a lot of kids because they constantly beat themselves up over things they do not have any control over! The biggest culprit of these is their most recent game performance. It’s easy to feel confident when you’re 4-4, but it’s very hard to feel good when you haven’t had a hit in your last 10 at-bats! This becomes the ultimate challenge: How do you consistently walk to the plate with confidence regardless of the score, your stats, or the guy on the mound?
Springer believes it begins with adopting what he calls an “Opening Day” mindset. No hitter on Opening Day has ever walked to the plate without any confidence. Why? Because they don’t have yesterday to beat them up! It’s easier said than done, but walking to the plate feeling the same way when you’re 4-4 or 0-4 is critical for consistent performance. When you don’t have the weight of your stats beating you down, you’re free to play the game focused on the most important pitch out there – the one you’re about to see!
Second, Springer believes kids need to change their goal when they walk to the plate. Instead of trying to get a hit, Springer believes kids need to go to the plate with “an attainable goal to hit the ball hard and help their team win.” Of course it’s important for hitters to get their knocks, but sometimes getting to first base depends on a little bit of luck. Jonny can dribble a ball down the third base line, turn it into an infield single, and then smoke one at center fielder his next at-bat – only to be caught!
This is why Springer dislikes using batting average to measure the success of players. Instead, he likes to use quality at-bats. Some examples of quality at-bats include hitting the ball hard, drawing a walk, seeing a lot of pitches in an at-bat, laying down a sacrifice bunt, or scoring a run through a ground ball or fly ball. All of these have one big theme in common – helping your team win the game! For these reasons, Springer believes hitters need to forget about getting base hits and instead focus on what they can control – hitting the ball hard and helping their team win! By committing to a consistent, attainable goal with your focus on the good of the team, your stats will take care of themselves.
In the batter’s box, Springer talks about “hunting speeds”. These speeds (pitches) should be determined by what the pitcher is throwing and when. As Springer likes to say, “Should you look for what you want to get? Or what you’re going to get?” This involves the hitter dialing in on a specific pitch and a location on the plate (in, middle, out) for every count that they’re in. By creating a narrow focus, the hitter is going to be more prepared for what’s to come by anticipating a likely outcome.
To summarize Springer’s thoughts on approach:
- 90% of a hitter’s success is walking to the plate with confidence. Believe in your abilities, you are a good hitter!
- Adopt an “Opening Day mindset” – no pitch is more important than the pitch you are about to see! There’s no sense in letting yesterday beat you up when yesterday doesn’t win the today’s games!
- Go to the plate with an attainable goal to hit the ball hard and help your team win the game. You create pressure on yourself when you make it about yourself and your statistics. Focus on being a great teammate!
- Look for what you’re going to get, not what you want to get!
- Hunt one speed in a specific part of the plate. It’s hard to hit 95 and 79 at the same time!
For more information about Steve Springer, you can visit his website at qualityatbats.com or follow him on Twitter @qualityatbats. Reach out to us with any questions or concerns. Keep on getting after it!