How To Hit On The Clutch: Batting Tips From A Former Major League Baseball Player
There aren’t many better feelings than taking hits for baseball players. In fact, is there? Getting a hit on the clutch is an even better feeling. Of all the great memories I have of playing baseball, the most memorable are the decisive blows I had. Many people think of decisive blows as those that drive runs or win games, but sometimes the blows players land to start a play, knock down a no hitter, or knock down a good pitcher from the game are just as important. One of my best memories of a decisive at-bat involved not a hit but a sacrifice fly I hit in the 17th inning that fueled the winning run against the New York Yankees. This was as memorable as a shot because, being a low-powered player, hitting a ball deep enough in the outfield was not an easy task for me.
Developing young players to be good clutch hitters is one of my goals as a hitting coach. Of course, the best clutch hitters are generally hitters who are fundamentally more solid with their hitting mechanics. Having good fundamentals always gives players the best chance of success. However, having good fundamentals does not guarantee a great clutch hitter and all hitters can be taught to improve at the clutch. I’ve met many players who have the ability to go 1-for-4 in games with a 250 batting average, but that hit always seemed to be a huge hit for the team. Some players just have a sense of the moment and an inner confidence that they are the right person for the situation. Good clutch hitters can focus on the moment. They do this by focusing on the things they can control, which is just taking a good swing on a good pitch. These clutch hitters don’t swing excessively, try hard, or get too “tense” to act.
With this in mind, the following are training tips to help players become good clutch hitters:
1. Explain to the players what was mentioned above, that the “clutch hit” involves more than just an RBI hit or a game winning hit. For example, simply getting to the base with a hike or a single can be very “clutch”.
2. Practice players in familiar clutch situations as much as possible. “Two outs, bases loaded, I play the line and here’s the pitch,” is a good batting practice idea. When players find themselves in difficult situations often enough, they will develop a “been there before” feeling, which can boost their confidence and provide reassuring feelings.
3. Explain to the players that no one will remember for a long time if they make it out, but that everyone will remember, for a long time, if they make a big hit. This way, players will start to feel like they don’t have much to lose, which should take the pressure off. This also helps players wait for the opportunity.
4. Good coaches don’t over-train by doing more than one situation than it is. This can be done by keeping calm and simply telling hitters to “hit a good pitch.” Coaches must be careful not to change their behavior or overload players with distracting instructional tips, especially during intense game situations.
5. Ask the players in practice who wants to keep up with the game in play. Most, if not all, will say they want to be, even if they’re not sure. This “mental preparation” will help players prepare for the situation before they find themselves in the real situation.
6. From time to time, telling different players that you want them to be the player at bat with the game at stake shows your confidence in the player, which should help the player’s confidence.
7. Coaches should not show disappointment in front of the players when they are not at the decisive moment, so that the players do not shy away from the desire to be in the same key situation next time. Players’ parents should be safe and follow this point as well, because kids definitely don’t want to disappoint their parents.
Finally, one thing I did as a player was start preparing for end-game situations. When a game was close in score, it would start around the sixth or seventh inning to visualize being up in the last inning with the game on the line. This was a great preparation for the eventual situation where I came to hit with the game at stake.