Use the following curveball hitting drills for hitters that that are having difficulty with offspeed pitches . They are also great drills for everyday use with teams around the 12 – 15 year old age range. Each year, starting around that 12 year old year, they will begin to see more and more breaking balls and other offspeed pitches.
Front Arm Connection Drill
Purpose: This drill is to help hitters feel their hands stay back. If the hands and arms of a hitter start before the lower body begins to open, they are going to have a lot of difficulty hitting pitchers who change speeds.
Set Up: For this drill you will need a towel, shirt, or really any small object that can fit comfortably under the hitter’s front arm. When the hitter gets into his stance, have him place the towel under their front arm, near their armpit. For a right handed hitter this will be their left arm. This drill can be done on the tee, soft toss, or live batting practice.
How It Works: Have the hitter feel for, and the coach watch, the point at which the towel comes out of the hitter’s armpit. It should not come out before contact with the ball. A hitter who struggles badly with their hands starting early may even have the towel fall out when they take a close pitch but do not swing (check swing). If doing soft toss or live batting practice, purposely throw some balls off the plate to force the hitter to take. Make it the hitters goal to never let the towel fall out on a take or check swing.
Purpose: This drill is to help hitters get used to side-to-side movement of the ball. It also helps with visualizing and getting the feel of staying inside the break of the curveball or slider. Finally, when the flips or throws are coming from the opposite side of the plate, it is a great drill for players whose front shoulder or hip fly open early.
Set Up: This drill will be done from front toss or live batting practice. Variation 1 – Move the L-screen off center, to a position that the ball will start behind the hitter and move across the plate. (simulates movement of righty on righty or lefty on lefty breaking ball) Variation 2 – Move the L-screen off center to the opposite side, so that the ball will start in the other batter’s box and cross the plate at the outside corner. (simulates movement of
How It Works: Variation 1 – Here we are simulating the movement of a right-handed pitcher throwing a breaking ball to a right-hand hitter, or lefty pitcher and lefty hitter. The goal of the hitter is to get a feel for staying inside a ball that is moving away and across the plate. They are trying to hit the ball where it is pitched, with solid line drives off the barrel of the bat. Variation 2 – Here we are simulating the movement of an opposite handed (righty pitcher on lefty hitter or vice versa) pitcher’s breaking ball, or a “back door breaking ball.” Hitter’s goal, once again, is to get a feel for staying inside of the baseball, this time with the ball moving in toward them. Again, they are trying to hit the ball where it is pitched, with solid line drives off the barrel of the bat.
Purpose: This drill is to help hitters get a feel for staying behind the ball instead of trying to go out and get it. It simulates an offspeed pitch with downward movement. This is also a great drill for any hitter who has a tendency to lunge at the ball, and any hitter whose head continues to move forward after the stride.
Set Up: This is a front soft toss drill, so the coach or tosser will need a screen for protection. We are going to set a baseball down as a marker for where the tosser is trying to land his toss. Place the marker even with the hitter’s front foot, down the middle of the plate.
How It Works: The tosser will try to soft toss the ball with a little loft on it, trying not to let it get any higher than the hitters head, and trying to place it so it would lands near the marker ball at the plate. The idea is to have some loft on the toss, but not so much that it becomes a slow-pitch softball style toss. The hitter is trying to keep his body and head behind the ball, and resist the urge to try to go out to get it. The hitter is trying to hit a line drive right back up the middle off of the screen, and avoid rolling over ground balls to his pull side.
Back Knee Drill
Purpose: This drill is intended to get hitters to get their legs more involved in their swings. It is a great drill for anyone who hits with stiff legs, stays too narrow, gets too wide, has a bad hitting posture, or has difficulty controlling their body throughout the swing.
Set Up: This drill can be done on the tee, or with side toss or front toss. We are going to try to stay low with the ball. So if you are using a tee, set it up as low as it goes.
*Note: most of the popular tees on the market do not allow you to set up the ball at the bottom of your average hitter’s strike zone (bottom of knees). I highly recommend picking up a short tee for daily use if you do not already have one.
The Tanner Tee Youth and the Jugs Short T are both great models that are extremely durable. If you are in the market for a new batting tee, the best deal right now is the Jugs Combo T Package on Amazon. You can get full strike zone coverage with professional quality tees, without breaking the bank.
How It Works: The coach is going to try to set up the tee or flip at the knee level of the hitter. The hitter is going to start in his normal hitting stance, take a full swing, but end up with his back knee on the ground. The hitter is going to try to sink into his landing when he strides, and continue to the ground through the swing. He should not have to drop several inches to the ground after the swing, he should already be there. Have the hitter hold that position on the ground for a two count before he stands back up. An important coaching cue for this drill is to constantly reinforce the notion of the hitter keeping his hands back and body closed. It is much easier to cheat during this drill and just try to open the front side of your body to get to the ground, instead of staying closed and using your legs to get down. The hitters goal should be to keep the ball off of the ground and hit hard line drives. If the hitter is opening up early, he will tend to hit a lot more ground balls.
Short Toss Curveballs
Purpose: Most young hitters have not had the chance to practice hitting or even had the chance to see many curveballs by time that crucial 12 to 15 year old age rolls around. If you haven’t seen many curveballs, you are bound to feel uncomfortable during the game when pitchers are throwing all sorts of different pitches at you. The idea with this drill is to get hitters familiar with the breaking ball, an even comfortable taking swings at it. The short toss version is also easier on the coach or thrower. It can be difficult to throw full batting practice distance and keep the curveball consistently in the strike zone.
Set Up: The coach or tosser will be seated behind a screen about 15 feet in front of the hitter. Set the screen up just a few feet farther back than you would for under hand soft toss.
How It Works: Variation 1 – Throw only curveballs. The hitters can get comfortable taking swings at the pitch, and learn how to successfully hit them. Variation 2 – Alternate between curveball and fastball, letting the hitter know what is coming each time. Hitters can get used to the changing speeds and how to adjust their swing to each pitch. Variation 3 – Mix up between curveballs and fastballs randomly without letting the hitter know what is coming. This is the ultimate, game-like test. Once hitters are familiar with curveballs, I highly suggest using this random pitch short toss drill on a weekly basis.