The Three Biggest Keys to On-Deck Preparation
By JK Whited
When a hitter is on deck, there are primarily three focal points as they prepare for their at-bat. The hitter can use his or her on deck time to visualize, body preparation, and timing. Now, these three can be done individually or at the same time, depending on the hitter’s individual needs. Some players might feel great about their timing with a particular pitcher and just want to breathe and get their mind right by visualizing success or what the pitcher might do. Others may want to really engage their body by getting their turn pattern ironed out a few times with some Rebel’s Rack Turns or full swings with a bat. Every hitter is different, and it is up to them and their coaches to figure out what gets them ready.
Now let’s break down these three aspects and you can determine which ones are needed most for you.
While some hitters may want to use their on-deck time to prepare their bodies, others may want to mentally see success. This type of hitter may want to see their swing and success unfold in their head before ever walking up to the plate. This can build up a player’s confidence so that when they approach the box they almost feel like they have already “won” before even taking a swing. This is a huge aspect of successful hitter on-deck time. Without the belief and confidence in themselves, their swing preparation won’t even matter. I don’t believe that any great hitter has ever once doubted themselves and their ability before stepping in the batter’s box.
I have seen it time and time again. A hitter does great in the cage or pre-game batting practice and then looks a shell of themselves facing a pitcher. Their self-doubt ultimately leads to their failure. This can come from fear of getting out, disappointing a parent or the team, or even something as simple as the fear of getting hit by the ball. All of these drastically change their aggression level and mechanics, dooming them before they even see a pitch.
2. Body Preparation
Most people know the Hunter Pence’s swing is a little unusual but his on-deck movements are even weirder. But, somehow, this gets him ready. That’s what it comes down to, what gets ME ready. This could range from full swings, swings with a weighted bat, certain drill movements, etc. Maybe I’ve been popping up too much lately, so I decided to do some high hands turns and feel my back shoulder rotate down behind me.
Perhaps my power is down and I choose to do some Rebel’s Rack turns and focus on getting good separation and feel the burst in my turn. Whatever it is, the on-deck circle is the best time to get the body ready since we can’t do much movement in the dugout.
At Baseball Rebellion, we have found out that our hitters really excel with Rebel’s Rack Turns on-deck. By taking the bat of their hand, they are free to focus on the body movements that allow their bodies to get into the correct positions and be violent in their turns. A lot of times when young hitters have the bat in their hands they tend to focus on their arms and hands and never really get the main muscle groups prepared. We call it “timing our turns”. If the hitter can time their turn properly to a pitcher’s fastball, the bat will usually follow suit. More on timing coming up.
In the video above, you can see Manny Ramerize working on getting his timing down with the pitcher. Manny shows us a great example of a professional on-deck approach. He goes through every pre-pitch movement that he would do in his live at-bat.
I see so many players on deck doing exactly what they don’t want to do at the plate. So they go to their at-bat with the wrong swing or timing and inevitably get themselves out. The hitter must incorporate every facet of their live game at-bat. Do your leg kick, take your real stride distance, and feel the gathering of your energy as if you were really in the box. The hitter’s body will remember what it does the most so anything other than what you would want to during the actual at-bat could result in a less than optimal timing or swing.
Remember, it is our job as the hitter to match our rhythm and tempo to the pitcher’s movements and fastball. I believe this process can and should happen way before the batter goes on deck. A hitter can easily go through the start of their load in the dugout while a pitcher is warming up or throwing live to batters.
Furthermore, if you are waiting until the on-deck circle to get your start ready or really any other mental aspect of hitting then there is a chance you won’t be ready. Remember, the hitter in front of you may only see once pitch and then you’re up. Do not wait until you are on-deck to get your mind right.
In closing, knowing yourself is the most important part of this. It may take some trial and error to figure out exactly what gets you ready on-deck. Also remember, it all starts with the proper practice habits and knowing you can repeat your movements. Without that, you’re just hoping that it works out during the game. Don’t hope, be prepared.
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