Wiffle Ball Batting Practice ...a cornerstone for your team’s success this summer
We are in the heat of tournament season. Youth organizations like Little League, PONY, Dixie, Cal Ripken, etc. are in the midst of state and regional tourneys. Travel ball teams are playing in tournaments most every weekend.
An ongoing challenge when playing in a tournament where every field is being used for games is finding an open space large enough to take batting practice and finding time to get all our players the reps they need without wearing the team out having kids standing in the sun shagging balls.
The simple answer is Whiffle Ball Batting Practice. A bit of background...
And I thought I knew every little secret and trick about baseball…...no, not really. Fortunately along my way through life I was exposed to many wise mentors, coaches, business people, etc. and constantly heard this phrase in one form or another, “Be careful not to allow yourself think you know everything and close your mind to learning and growing, especially in your areas of expertise”.
So back in my 30’s, when I knew everything ;) I was playing semi-pro ball in British Columbia, Canada (I married a Canadian gal and had been living up there for a year or two). Prior to the start of one of our first games at Burnaby Park, the guys went down the left field line with a big bag of wiffle balls and another big bag of tennis balls and started taking batting practice. Not to just one guy, but four or five guys were hitting at once.
I had never seen anything like this before and, as with many things that are new to us, thought it looked pretty silly. I mean, these are accomplished college, ex-college and former pro guys hitting wiffle balls and tennis balls? You gotta be kidding me. ….and like any good ignorant American, I shook my head thinking, “Well, that’s Canadians for you”.
Looking back now, after having lived in BC, Canada for a decade, I realized how foolish I was at that moment. First, Canadians are incredible ball players with their share of Major League Baseball MVPs, All-Stars and Hall of Famer, Jergie Jenkins. Second, that pre-game batting practice routine, that I was shaking my head at has become a central part of Baseball Positive’s teaching and programming.
No, I was far from knowing it all and hope to keep my senses for the rest of this lifetime to remain open to learning from others.
It’s Not the Same as Hitting a Baseball!
As I stood there watching my new teammates, and the other team doing the same down the right field line, not only did this look strange, but the primary thought that went through my head was, “That’s dumb, hitting those balls isn’t the same as hitting a baseball”.
I am not sure I fully figured it out that first season, but the more I participated in this pregame routine and in the years since, as I’ve incorporated this in my coaching instruction programs, I came to realize that the purpose was not ‘hitting the ball’ per se, but to work on developing and maintaining the SWING. The SWING is the most important component of the exercise.
Reps, Reps, Reps (Wiffleball Batting Diagram and Description)
How is this beneficial to a youth baseball or softball player? First and foremost, more than one player can hit at a time….wiffle balls are not dangerous like baseballs (I am not a fan of using tennis balls with kids because they are harder, travel faster and could cause an an injury) so more than one batter can hit at a time, which gets the team as a whole, many more reps.
Simple Logistics: whiffle balls don’t travel very far (a kid who crushes a wiffle ball is lucky to hit it 100’), so you don’t need a large space. Because they don’t travel far, they are easier to retrieve and get back to the Batting Practice pitcher(s).
The batting practice pitcher is in little danger of being injured by a line drive, so they can stand closer to the batter(s). A shorter the pitching distance means more accurate pitches, resulting in more swings and more quality swings. Plus, no protective screen is required. No lugging around extra equipment!
Wiffle balls won’t break a window. If there is no place to hit that is far from cars and homes a team can still get in a good batting workout without fear of damaging property.
Finally, when hitting Whiffle Balls, the batter gets to see pitches straight on, just like a game. I see many coaches and parents hauling those pop up ball nets for kids to hit into off a tee or soft toss. Tee work ands soft toss are tremendous tools for swing work, and should be a part of every player’s swing development program, but a player also needs to see live pitching straight on, especially right before a game.
Whiffle Ball Batting Practice - A Cornerstone of Your Summer Team’s Success
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, a great advantage of Wiffle Ball Batting Practice is it is efficient. In tournaments there is not always a lot of time to prepare before or between games. When it’s blazing hot outside we don’t want to wear our kids out standing in the sun too long. In whiffle ball batting practice, all the players on a team can get 20-25+ quality swings in 10-15 min.
And during the week, between tournaments, Wiffle Ball Batting Practice is something coaches and parents can do with kids to keep them sharp and improving. Most of us have limited time available once work and other personal and family obligations are taken care of. If you can find 60’ of open space, multiple young ballplayers can get a lot of live swings in a short period of time.
Grab some wiffle balls and give it a try. After a few days of getting a feel for pitching a wiffle ball and seeing the volume of quality swings ballplayers can get in Wiffle Ball Batting practice you will be a convert just as I was. Incorporate this into your child’s and your team’s summer routine and watch the positive impact it makes on their stats, the scoreboard…..and in the amount of fun everyone has playing this summer.
Whiffle ball batting is a year round strategy for getting batters massive repetitions of quality live swings. Come winter/indoor season we can have a group of 12-16 players in a gym; half hitting and half chasing balls. Switch ‘em up every couple minutes. In an hour everyone gets hundreds of live swings.