A recent submission to the CoachUp Q&A read as such: “Every time I hit off a tee, it goes straight to left field. Why? How do I get better?” First and foremost, it is important to better understand the why behind using a tee for batting practice at all. Many baseball coaches include tee work in their practice plan, but gloss over its actual importance and benefit. If you are putting the ball on a tee and hitting it a hundred times just because you believe you’re supposed to, using a tee will be a waste of time. What the tee presents is an opportunity to hone in on the small details of your swing that need improvement. There are a number of different drills to help implant muscle memory into your approach that will help you become more consistent in your load, your swing path, your hand speed, and your balance.
How to improve your baseball swing by hitting off the tee
To quickly answer the original question, if every single swing that you take off the tee is pulled to left field as a righty it is possibly a result of the tee’s position. If you take the same swing at the same tee that is sitting in the same position every time, the ball will mostly end up in the same place as a result. One of the most valuable aspects of hitting off of the tee is the way it helps you feel the point of contact. Were your hands inside the ball? Did you cast around it? Maybe you swung over the top or dipped your shoulder and got under it. Moving the tee around to different areas of the plate simulates hitting a variety of pitches, but you should always be working to stay inside the ball and strengthening your ability to hit to the opposite field. Here are some more specific drills to develop that strength and improve as a hitter.
- The Bryce Harper drill
If you’re familiar with Bryce Harper, you know that he gets his hips involved in his load as well as any player in baseball. The torque and separation that he creates by loading up with his hips is second to none. If you aren’t familiar, here is a video of his swing in slow motion to give a visual.
The drill is quite simply replicating and dramatizing that hip load and drive when hitting off the tee. Imagine that you are showing your front butt cheek and leading heel to the pitcher in this exaggerated load, then uncoil your hips back in the direction of the mound. This will help you work on keeping your weight moving in a straight line through your swing, and help your hands to stay inside and working to the opposite field.
- Stride pause, stride swing drill
For this drill, set the tee up on the front outer third of the plate—or position your feet to roughly that distance if you don’t have a plate—and put your front foot together with your back foot. From there, make your full stride (and hand load) to the landing point of a normal swing and pause. Bring your front foot back again, then repeat your stride and hand load and take the swing. This extra rep on your stride will help you to build consistency in the timing of your hand load with your stride, and help to strengthen balance in your stride. Two key components to consistency in your swing and strength getting through the baseball.
- High tee drill
Raise the tee up to chest height. This would be a pitch that you would typically take unless you felt the need to fight it off with two strikes. However, the benefit of practicing swings at this high pitch, with the intention of getting on top of it, is that it will make attacking pitches in the zone with a good swing path feel much easier. In the high tee drill, focus on getting your front elbow pointed towards the baseball, swinging down and through the top half of the baseball, and hitting line drives up the middle. If you can simulate and replicate this contact on a high pitch, you can start making better contact on easier pitches to handle in the zone.
Below is a video that includes each of the previously mentioned drills and more. Give them a shot to get the most out of your tee work, and grow your game through good practice!
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