Going to the batting cages seems to be an American pastime in its own right. Most Little Leaguers remember going to the batting cages to work on their swing, and many high school ball players continue to do so. Most players love the cage because it makes them look like they’ve been touched by the baseball gods. But why do we look so good in the batting cage? And does batting cage performance translate to the field? Chances are, it doesn't.
Think about it. When you arrive at the batting cages, you buy your tokens and pick your speed, knowing the ball will go right down the middle every single time. Anyone can get his timing down to hit those balls, no matter how poor his swing mechanics are. But how often do you step into the batter’s box in a live game and politely instruct the opposing pitcher where and how fast to throw the next pitch?
Unless you’re playing your gullible little brother in a game of MLB The Show, that’s never going to happen. It’s certainly not how someone like 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins built the powerful swing he has today.
Live batting practice mixed with hitting drills is the way to go. Certain hitting drills can improve hand-eye coordination, allowing you to pepper the field with hits placed wherever you want. Having a coach or teammate throw is a far more realistic experience. Live BP forces you to follow the ball throughout the pitcher’s motion and pay closer attention to mechanics, like keeping your hands close to your body.
“Power is generated by bat speed,” says Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins, who employs a short, compact swing with his hands close to his body for maximum power.
We’re not saying batting cages are completely useless. At least you’re getting out and swinging the bat. But knowing exactly where every pitch is going can lead to lazy mechanics. You need to take batting practice without knowing where the ball will be, what kind of pitch is coming and how fast it will be. Combine that with Rollins’ batting tips, and you’ll be a far more complete hitter. Plus, you can get a little added cardio by running to collect the balls after you’ve sprayed them all over the outfield.
Watch the videos below with Rollins for tips on improving your swing.
Jimmy Rollins Single-Arm Soft Toss