“Keep your eye on the ball!”
You’d be hard pressed to find a baseball/softball coach or the parent of a player who has never uttered that phrase. It is likely impossible to find a player who has never heard this instruction while batting.
But does a batter actually see the ball hit the bat? Many experts say that it is physically impossible given the speed a ball travels combined with the speed of the swing. And what happens at the moment of contact between the bat and the ball?
Over the weekend I spent some time taking some batting practice with the eight year old son of a friend of mine. While picking up balls he found one that was coming apart at the seams and was ready for retirement. He asked me what was inside. Having wondered the same thing when I was about his age, I suggested he do what I did; tear off the cover to find out.
He set to work on his investigation…which takes about an hour. As would be expected he got a bit frustrated in the process, but we kept him motivated by saying there is a ‘Surprise’ in the center of the ball. When pressed, we told him there was a little man in a spaceship living in there. Initially he bought our story, but it didn’t hold long. It did, however, keep his curiosity up to stick to his project.
I won’t give away what he found in case your child comes across a ball they want to take apart. When this little boy did get to the ‘surprise’ he said, “This is so cool. I’m not gonna let this out of my sight”
The construction of a baseball, which is no longer a mystery to my young friend, can help us understand what takes place when the bat and ball collide. The first video is truly mind blowing; you and your child will enjoy it (the magic moment is at 1:25 of the video) …and your child just might gain a deeper interest in science. Anything to peak their interest in learning, right?
The second video shows what happens to the bat at contact. Again, very interesting and beyond what you might think happens. What you can take away from the second video is why some players have so much more power than others. We might think its about being big and muscled. I am confident in saying that if we tested the grip strength of the best power hitters we’d find they are much stronger in this area.
When I was playing minor league ball they tested everyone’s grip strength. We had a fairly skinny guy on our team whose grip strength was 25% greater than the rest of us. That explained why he was a second round draft choice and could hit the ball so much further than the rest of us.
Enjoy the videos and share them with your child (and his friends) If you have an old ball laying around, sit down with your young ballplayer and take it apart. It will be a lifetime memory; it has been for me.