Did You Know?
In Amarillo, 1978, Bruce Meade hit a slow-pitch softball 510 feet, for the longest home run, a record which still stands today.
In 1887, a variant of baseball was invented by George Hancock, a journalist for the Chicago Board of Trade, that could be played indoors. It had smaller playing dimensions, a smaller bat and a softer, larger ball than baseball. The popularity of this version gained rapidly and around 1926, it was officially named softball.
Softball is primarily played in two ways, fast-pitch, and slow-pitch.
Scoring or hitting runs in fast-pitch softball is relatively easier as the batter can utilize the speed of the pitched ball to strike it in the field. Whereas in slow-pitch, the hitter has to generate speed through his strength in order to hit the ball further and faster. This makes hitting vital to slow-pitch softball.
Any softball player, be it the one who plays on Sundays for recreation or one who is serious and wants to play professionally, would want to hit better, stronger and longer. Here, we have provided some hitting tips along with some practice drills that are sure to help you improve your game.
The Art of Hitting in Slow-Pitch Softball
Choosing A Bat
Choose the right bat which suits your grip, and is comfortable to swing and hit. The most crucial factor in hitting slow-pitch softball is timing, and power. In order to produce the hardest hit, delivered with maximum power, you need to generate tremendous bat speed. Therefore, it is important that you select a bat which is neither too heavy nor too light.
There is a popular misconception that heavier bats allow more powerful hits, but it might not necessarily be the case every time. A very heavy bat may in fact, reduce the speed of the ball after it hits the bat. A 28-ounce bat is recommended as it gives the player both, speed and flexibility to swing his arms.
Another major factor is the grip which can vary according to a player's choice and comfort. Everybody has a different way of gripping the bat.
An example being, placing the bat knob between the ring and pinkie finger. The upper hand almost overlaps the lower one in this grip position. A grip with two or three fingers of the top hand overlapping the lower one, can generate decent bat speed.
Whichever grip you choose, make sure you are comfortable with it. Grip the bat firmly, but don't strangle the handle. Keep your hands loose, relax your arms. This will ensure that you generate better bat speed through your hitting area.
The right hitting posture is very important. Your posture not only helps maintain balance, but also provides stability to deliver more powerful hits.
Slightly bend your right leg (if you are right-handed) and back, before the pitch. There must be a gradual shift of weight from the back foot to the front foot as the stroke is executed.
The shoulder should be lifted slightly during the swing, and should not drop back. The thrust of the hands in the direction of the pitcher will deviate the ball and prevent it from being caught by the pitcher.
Remember to keep the body and leg posture the same for all pitch locations, and simply make adjustments with your hands. This will help maintain balance, and give you a better chance of hitting every pitch.
Studying the Pitcher
It is important to study the pitcher. Try to anticipate how the ball will come, and which way it would swing. You should have an idea about the various styles that the pitcher is permitted to use while pitching. Once you get the judgment of how the ball will come, time your stroke to hit the ball at the right moment to generate maximum hitting power.
Keeping Eyes on The Ball
To deliver a successful hit, the vital thing is making solid contact with the ball. Always keep your eyes on the ball, anticipate the pitch, and then strike with accuracy. Practice hitting different types of pitch to perfect this.
Swinging the Bat
Swing fast at the ball, try to get the barrel of the bat to meet the middle of the ball. Make sure you time your swing right, to deliver a powerful shot. Extend your arms when you go through with your hitting motion.
You can try spin shots by hitting the lower part of the ball. This maximizes the distance it travels, with an increase in the spin. Once the bat makes contact with the ball, continue with your swing, even after the impact. The natural swing should be followed through completely. This ensures a longer hit.
Drills for Practice
Colored Ball Soft Toss
Get different color balls, and ask your partner to toss two balls at different heights. Then ask him/her to call out one of the two colors, you are supposed to hit that ball. For variation, you can change the release points as well as vary the speed of the balls.
Once you've mastered the first version of this drill, you can try with three balls, or allow your partner to call out colors that aren't being tossed. Practicing this drill will increase your concentration, and enhance your hitting technique.
Assume your stance with your partner facing you. Your partner should hold the ball at shoulder height. Ask your partner to drop the ball, and move herself/himself away from your strike zone.
Be very careful with this drill, as there is a chance of injury. To be safe, you may ask your partner to stand on a chair, and then drop the ball. Once he/she drops the ball, predict the ball speed, and hit the ball with full swing. This tracking drill, will help you develop hand speed for hitting the ball.
Ask your partner to stand 10 feet away from you, and ask him/her to overhand toss a ball so that it bounces. You must wait for the first bounce, and then hit the ball once it reaches your smash zone. This drill will teach you to wait for the ball to come to you, however long or short the pitch, instead of you going towards the ball.
Tips to Improve Your Game
The more you practice, easier it will be for you to estimate and anticipate what kind of pitch is being directed towards you. It will make you adept at reckoning all types of slow-pitch softball pitching. so, practice as much as you can.
One of the most important tip, crucial for any sport, is regular exercise. It is absolutely essential that you get your body in top condition with good flexibility for generating powerful shots. General muscle strengthening exercises help in building strength, and bat speed. You can also practice using a Wiffle ball bat, or by hitting basketballs.
Softball rules and regulations, though mostly similar to baseball, differ in a few aspects, which you should be aware of before playing the game. The mentioned tips, and regular practice, will help you in becoming an asset for your team. And finally, while you focus on the techniques, do not forget to enjoy the game, and have fun.