One of the most difficult aspects of learning the rotational swing is developing and understanding what almost all instructors term as staying "Connected". 10 years ago hanging around the baseball and softball fields this term was a virtual unknown among most coaches and instructors.
So, what is connection? Why do I need to stay connected coach? As children we grow up and our intuition tells us that when we pick something up be it a fly swatter, a yard stick, or even a little toy hammer like dads and we swing it, we take our hands to the object we are hitting. This is natural instinct for all young humans. Even if it is the coffee table we just left a mark on and Mom and Dad don't have a happy look on their face. Learning connection is counter intuitive to what all of us have learned as children.
In the world of the rotational swing connection is the engine that drives the ball hard. You will hear all kinds of debates on the internet web blogs and sites on linear and rotational hitting methods. Even among those rotational purest there is debate about which method is best. None of those purest ever debates about connection. It is probably the single thing that they all realize has to happen in the rotational swing.
So how does connection work and how do I know if I am connected in my swing? As the hitter sets up in their stance lets assume that they are in a good athletic position and that they have the bat in position ready to take a swing. They are tilted forward in their stance knees slightly bent. Bat is positioned at a 45 degree angel in their hands or across the ear hole of the helmet. In short cutting the helmet in half if your viewing them from their back arm side. Or the catchers view of the hitter.
Depending on where you're at as an instructor with that particular hitter, they might take a stride, or they might not take a stride. One of the first things I do to a new student that comes to me is stopping the stride for a period of time. I do this to help them develop better rotation methods for the swing. Most students who come to me suffer from what a good friend of mine terms "Rotational deficit". If you take the stride away and teach them how to rotate first then you will see immediate results in quickness and power to the ball. This, in my opinion, not only applies to Rotational hitting but Linear hitting as well. Having taught and used both methods I feel pretty comfortable in that statement.
Now I have a hitter that has good hitting posture and decent rotational skills but is disconnected going to the ball. Disconnection takes on many forms in the rotational swing. I will touch on those a little further down in this article. For now I will state that Disconnection is leak that breaks the rotational engine. It bleeds off power.
As the hitter initiates the swing to the ball they are focused on the first point where they are going to see the ball. I have heard many a coach state watch the hip. That view being the first point of getting a good clear look at the ball. As they initiate the swing they go to toe touch. This creates linear movement towards the ball. At the same time the hands are moving back towards the catcher.
(I am talking about an advanced student in this example) At foot plant the back hip fires (As I teach it) against a firm front side flexed leg. The knob of the bat then initiates the movement of the bat as the hips and the bodies' core start to rotate. The core of the body is now driving the swing. This is THE engine of the rotational swing. As the back arm starts coming around with the rotation the arm starts moving around into the slot. The arm needs to be away from the body and the hand and forearm are stacked on top of each other. If viewed from front with a tee in front of the hitter, the rear arm would be parallel to the tee. This would be as another hitting instructor who is a good friend of mine describes it. When the bat gets parallel to the ground during the swing this is the Bat Lag position.
At this point in the swing the knob of the bat should be directly perpendicular to the axis of the hitters spine. If I stopped the swing right there and took a pencil and placed in on the knob of the bat pointing towards the hitter it should be in line with the belly button. This defines a CONNECTED swing. The arms are not moving but are just holding on to the bat letting the core rotation drive the swing into contact. The other key here is holding that position as LONG as possible during the rotational portion of the swing into contact. The barrel and weight of the bat force the wrist to un-cock creating a whipping effect through the hitting zone into contact with the ball. The engine of rotation combined with the batter being connected and the wrist un-cocking is how the best hitters in the world drive the ball hard in today's game.
Disconnection – The Engine Breakers
There are many things that can occur during the course of the swing that will cause a batter to disconnect or break the box as some instructors call it. The "Box" being the front arm angle that maintains a "Set" position with the bat over the shoulder. When viewed from the front of the hitter it would appear as if they have a box formed with their arm and the bat.
- Taking the hands to the ball.
- Dropping the back elbow to the inside (Close to the body) as a first move creating Bat Drag.
- Dropping the hands then going to the ball.
- The bat not being parallel to the shoulders at contact with the ball (Created by all the above)
- Casting the hands.
- Throwing the front shoulder open too soon.
I hope this article has given you a better idea of what the term connection means in the context of the rotational swing. I strongly suggest you see a qualified hitting instructor to help you become better connected with your swing so that you too can learn to drive the ball hard to all parts of the field. That is what connection is all about in the rotational swing.
This picture shows an example of a connected swing. Arms are in the power L position and are driven by the core rotation. The bat at contact is on a slightly upward swing plane.