How To Hit In The Clutch: Baseball Hitting Tips From A Former Major League Baseball Player

There aren’t many better feelings than getting hits for baseball players. Actually, there is? Getting hit in the clutch is an even better feeling. Of all the great memories I have of playing baseball, the ones that are most memorable are the clutch hits I had. Many people think of clutch hits as the ones that drive in runs or win games, but sometimes just as important are the hits players get to start a play, break up a no-hitter, or put a good pitcher out of the game. One of my fondest memories of a decisive at-bat involved not a hit but a sacrifice fly I hit in the 17th inning that drove in the game-winning run against the New York Yankees. This was as memorable as a hit because, being an underpowered player, hitting a ball deep enough into the outfield was no easy task for me.

Developing young players to be good key hitters is one of my goals as hitting coach. Of course, the best clutch hitters are generally the hitters who are fundamentally the most solid with their hitting mechanics. Having good fundamentals always gives players the best chance of success. However, just having good fundamentals does not guarantee a great clutch hitter and all hitters can be taught to be better in the clutch. I’ve known plenty of players who have the ability to go 1-for-4 in games for a .250 batting average, but that hit always seemed like a big 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 simply swinging well on a pitch. These clutch batters don’t over-rotate, strain too hard, or “squeeze” too hard to work.

With this in mind, the following are coaching tips to help players become good clutch hitters:

1. Explain to the players what was mentioned above, that “clutch hit” involves more than just an RBI hit or a game-winning hit. For example, simply getting on base with a walk or single can be very “clutching.”

2. Practice players in familiar difficult situations as much as possible. “Two out, bases loaded, game in play and here’s the pitch” is a good batting practice idea. When players find themselves in difficult situations often enough, they will develop a sense of “having been there before”, which can increase their confidence and give them calming feelings.

3. Explain to the players that no one will remember for long if they make an out, but 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 ease the pressure. This also serves to make players wait for the opportunity.

4. Good coaches don’t overtrain by making more of a situation than it is. This can be done by staying calm and simply telling hitters to “throw a good pitch to hit.” Coaches must be careful not to change their behavior or overload players with distracting instructional advice, especially during intense game situations.

5. Ask the players in practice who wants to be ready to bat with the game on the line. Most, if not all, will say they want to be, even if they aren’t sure. This “mental preparation” will help the players to prepare for the situation before they find themselves in the real situation.

6. Telling different players from time to time that you want them to be the player ready to hit with the game on the line shows your confidence in the player, which should help player confidence.

7. Coaches must not show disappointment in front of the players when they do not reach the decisive moment, so that the players are not ashamed of wanting to be up in the same key situation the next time. The parents of the players must also be sure and follow this point, because the children definitely do not want to disappoint their parents.

Ultimately, one thing I did as a player was start preparing for late game situations. When a game was close to scoring, I would start around the sixth or seventh inning to visualize being up in the last inning with the game on the line. This was great preparation for the eventual situation where I got to hit with the game balanced.

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