In this drill we rarely use a full size "bat" or a full size "ball" when doing soft-toss. This is done to intensify the drill and the skill being taught.
How to Do It
Position yourself to the batting side (right for right handed batters) and ahead of the batter. Toss the "ball" at the hip of the batter. You want them to impact the ball in front of their body. This is the "contact point".
The toss is important!! You do not want an arching, ugly type of thing, unless you are playing the old man's game of "slo-pitch", if so, you are on the wrong page. The toss should be crisp, but not too fast and out in front of the batter. Practice this to get it correct.
What Soft-toss Can Do
We use soft-toss to teach and reinforce the proper mechanics of the swing. Make sure your batters are:
- Pivoting correctly and early enough.
- Rotating their hips with an explosion toward the ball.
- Unlocking their shoulders, elbows and wrists in sequence while throwing their hands straight to the ball (Watch for hands dropping and be sure to correct this).
- Watching the ball all the way to the "bat" and continuing to watch the "contact point" after the "ball" has been hit.
Finding the Right Stance
The proper stance is essential. It should be a balanced stance with 60% of the weight on the back foot, eyes level, bat in launch position (not rapped behind the head), knees slightly bent, and door-knocking knuckles lined up.
The stride should be a short, smooth lift and move type of stride. At impact with the ball and at follow-through, the body should be in a slightly curved position toward the ball (inward "c"). This insures that all the weight and power went into impacting the ball.
A Drill with Flexibility
We have used many things for "balls" and "bats". To increase concentration on the ball, try using tennis balls, practice whiffle golf balls, and coffee can lids (plastic ones like frisbees). My favorite (and the players favorite) is to use black-eyed peas or popcorn. We start hitting them with a full size bat, but quickly move to a "thunder-stick" or a home-made "bat" I made which is about the same size as a "thunder-stick" but with less weight inserted in the end. We are trying to teach muscle memory and too much weight teaches a slower swing.
One of my favorite drills is the "Two-Ball" drill with the practice golf balls. I hold two balls in my hand and toss them into the "contact zone" and call out either "one" or "two". The player must hit the corresponding ball.
If the batters start to "cheat" on soft-toss drills, I hold one ball in either hand and rotate them (like juggling) and toss one up. This way they do not know when the ball is coming. They all hate this, but it works!! This is a shooting drill we do with our guards. I call it the 'Radar Drill.'