Great Young Hitters

Below is an article my dad (Mike) wrote during his recent trip back to Washington for an article in Sports Illustrated…

“Two weeks ago I was honored by the Washington Nationals baseball organization for my contributions while playing for the Washington Senators from 1967-71. It was a fun time and amazing to me that so many people turned out to remember memorable moments I had (sadly) forgotten over time. Great fans and great people. What more could a former player ask for?

I did a radio and television interview before the game and was asked an interesting question that I want to share with you. “Why are there so many very young, great hitters arriving on the major league scene today?”

I thought for a few seconds and the answer became unexpectedly obvious. Over the past 15 years, for the very first time, hitters have been given a set of in instructions—in the form of drills—allowing them to prosecute the core movements of every productive hitter that has ever played the game.

Way back in 2001 when I was asked to speak on hitting at the American Baseball Coaches Association annual convention in Nashville, I visually outlined my thoughts in front of 4,000 high school and college baseball coaches on the whys, the hows, and the benefits of rotational hitting. As many of you will recall, linear hitting was the technique taught by nearly everyone those days. Because of this conventional wisdom prevailing at that time, it was a skeptical crowd at best—especially when I summed up my talk with the following:

“Trust me when I say I am not farsighted enough to predict the future. Few can. But I will go on record as saying that, at some point in the foreseeable future, we will see more and more hitters get to the major leagues at an earlier age—and be successful—quicker than ever before. Today, I respectfully believe I have put on view a path to this impending scenario with my drills. However, only you, the coaches can make this happen.”

And they have made it happen, albeit slowly. Hitters finally had a “blueprint” to work from. You (and your youngster) know who these young stars are because you see them execute this blueprint on television every day: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Carlos Correia, and Chris Bryant to name just a few. They represent a microcosm of those who are getting to the big leagues quicker than ever before and starring once they get there.

Historically, teaching hitting didn’t exist. In fact, there were no hitting coaches in the major leagues until 1975. My mentor, Ted Williams, told me that hitting tips were passed on verbally and written down on scraps of napkins over meals on the train between cities. Everyone had an idea, but no one codified or collated this cornucopia of information. A pity, because it relegated hitting instruction to “trial and error” and emulation. Paths of failure for the majority. In fact, it used to take hitters 8-10 (or more) years toiling in the minor leagues until they mastered the movements because there was no outline, or drills, for them to follow. I changed all this beginning in 1985.

Step One was collecting and organizing this plethora of information. And, with the invaluable mentorship of the “World’s Greatest Hitter” and stop-action video, I was able to isolate rapid-fire physical movements that the human eye could not.

Step Two was devising a series of drills for anyone to follow, from youngsters on up, amateur and professional, baseball and fastpitch softball.

When youngsters can learn these precious hitters’ movements early-on—and afforded the opportunity by coaches to continue honing them–what we see happening today in the major leagues is the product of this blueprint. This must be made clear: the operative words are “afforded the opportunity by coaches to continue honing them” because over the years Jake and I (and our 650+ Epstein Certified Instructors) have taught tens of thousands of players, but due to the “conventional wisdom” of the previous era, many coaches would not allow our students to follow the blueprint. They didn’t understand it and were indifferent to learn about it, despite our hitters dominating their lineups.

Gradually, a growing number of these coaches came around when they saw their hitters able to make the on-the-fly adjustments needed that would eventually propel them to college scholarships and professional stardom.

Many of these open-minded coaches encouraged their hitters to “go to the source” and seek our instruction and that of our network of Epstein Certified Instructors as a means to continue improving. However, there are still some coaches who are mired in the past and choose not to change and, sadly, this greatly impacts hitters to get to the next level.

Ted would be proud that his legacy has continued. The science of proper hitting continues today because it is the only hitting technique governed by the laws of physics. Simply, it works—and has worked for over 100 years

Today, parents can benefit by having their youngsters take advantage of this tried-and-true technique because of the pioneering work I started—and Jake continues with our novel online hitting website. This is yet another leading-edge undertaking for Epstein Hitting to help you and your hitter(s) progress quickly and intelligently to the next level.”

Count your blessings.

Good luck, continued success, and “Get a good pitch to hit!”

—  Mike Epstein