Baseball Reflections

Baseball is a Head Game and How to Fix It

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Jack Perconte Hitting Instructor & former MLB Player

This article is probably not what you think. You are probably thinking I am talking about what baseball players should be thinking about on the ball field – the mental game of baseball. Actually, this article is about the physical aspect of a baseball player’s head and how important the location of the head is in every baseball skill. Why is the head position so important? The head holds the eyes and there is nothing more important to a ball player’s ability to perform than their eyes. Additionally, a player’s head is the key to their balance. Wherever a person leans with their head that is where their weight and balance shifts. Therefore, a baseball player, who has their head out of position when performing one of the basic skills of hitting, pitching or fielding, will not be able to perform those skills correctly.

With that in mind, following are common problems I see with young player’s “head positions” when they hit, pitch and field and some suggestions for the way it should be positioned:
Common problems with the head position when hitting:
Problem 1. Tilted head – The hitter’s head should start level and leaning slightly towards home and over the inside of the hitters back leg. This head position places the hitter’s weight on the balls of their feet as well as their weight on the inside of their rear leg. Some hitters begin with their head centered and shift their weight back by moving their head to this position when they prepare to swing and that is OK and good.
Problem 2. Drifting head on stride – With the hitter’s stride the head should remain back in the same position.
Problem 3. Head drops, raises or moves too far forward during swing – On the swing the head may move forward slightly (no more than a few inches) as the weight transfers, but it should remain on the same plain throughout the swing.
Problem 4. Head pulls away before contact – Hitter’s head should rotate slightly back towards the catcher so the eyes can track the ball to contact.

Common problems of the head position when pitching:

Problem 1. Head sits back, putting weight on balls of pitcher’s feet – When a pitcher lifts their front leg before delivery, it is common for young pitchers to allow their head to sit back, thereby placing their weight incorrectly on the balls of the feet, causing their balance and direction to be affected..

Problem 2. Head doesn’t lead way – Once a pitcher’s stride foot lands, the pitcher’s head should move forward and out over their front leg. This head movement towards the target transfers their weight and allows for a long arm follow through.
Problem 3. Tilt or jerk of the head – many young pitchers will try to get that extra on the ball by jerking their head violently upon release of the ball. This causes more strain to be put on the arm as well as inaccurate pitches when the front side opens too quickly with this action.

Common problems of the head position when fielding:

Problem 1. Weight on heels when ball is pitched – The initial head position for fielders is the same for all positions, slightly forward with the amount of bend in the fielder’s knees and waist being different at the various infield or outfield positions.

Problem 2. Infielders raising head on their first step to the batted ball or at sometime when approaching the ball – When approaching ground balls the head should be out front and lower than normal standing height keeping the fielder on the balls of their feet and low to the ground. This is most important when charging in on a groundball.
Problem 3 – Outfielders running flat footed for fly balls – this running style causes the head to bob and weave, making it difficult for player’s to center the ball and/or reach for it when needed.

Finally, good baseball coaches know how important players head position is and focus on it when teaching all the fundamentals of the game. As intimated, just about every athletic action in every sport is done with the athlete’s weight on the balls of their feet, which is determined by the athlete placing their head slightly forward in their stance. Without this correct initial athletic head positioning, performing the fundamentals of baseball will not be possible.

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