The batting tee is a tool that will stay with a baseball player throughout his career. As he ages and improves, an aspiring ballplayer will use it in different ways.
In today's article, we will discuss how batting tee drills and training will evolve throughout a player's development arc.
Batting Tee Drills & Training for Early Youth Baseball
For a player brand new to the game, merely hitting the ball is a difficult task. Because of this, players will try to hit the ball however they can, even with an ugly, ineffective swing.
For players in tee ball or coach pitch—the youngest organized levels of baseball—the batting tee provides a way to focus on the process of hitting, rather than just the outcome.
Hitting off a tee removes the difficulty of the moving ball out of the equation, allowing a player to focus more on his own swing mechanics. A stationary ball sets the stage to build a swing that will serve a player for a lifetime. And don't forget even two and three-year-old kiddos can have a lot of fun swinging a stick at the ball on the stand!
How Travel Baseball & High School Players Use Batting Tees
As the level of play increases, the quality of a hitter's swing becomes an ever-increasing factor in how successful he is. Even more than just hand-eye coordination is required.
Competitive amateur players—those competing in travel ball and high school baseball—should be hitting off a batting tee regularly. But, their purpose is different than that of a youngster. Serious ballplayers will need to make adjustments to their swing over time, constantly improving as they climb the ranks.
When they need to make big changes, the following progression is typically followed:
- Identify the change in hitting mechanics that needs to be made.
- Try to feel the change using dry swings (no ball) and drills.
- Hit balls off a batting tee while focusing almost entirely on mechanics.
- Transition to slow speed front-toss, soft-toss or batting practice.
- Progress to faster and faster speeds of batting practice.
- See how the change “sticks” in game action.
When hitters are only focused on distance and hitting the baseball hard, they can fall back into old habits.
For this reason, batting tee drills and consistent tee work have a place in every hitter's routine. Tee work allows mental freedom to focus on mechanical changes that will take time to become permanent.
Yet, when many players struggle, the first instinct is often to jump into the batting cage and hit a ton of live pitching. This can be the right move sometimes, but adjustments are more difficult to make against live pitching.
Using a batting tee to make adjustments during a slump will usually provide a better foundation to fix what's ailing.
How Pro Players Use Batting Tees
Here are a few things to know about pro hitters:
- They are very in-tune with their bodies and their swings.
- They are very strong, exceptional athletes.
- They are constantly making small adjustments.
- They are always trying to stay on track and maintain the swing that has gotten them to pro ball.
- They follow consistent routines in pre-game, between at-bats and in the batter's box.
- They use many different practice methods, drills and techniques to stay sharp.
So how do pro hitters use batting tees to keep improving? As a tool for visualization, mechanical adjustments and feel.
Visualization of Success and Hard-Hit Balls
Baseball is a very mental sport. Good hitters visualize success before they step on the field, and that starts with their work off the tee.
If you watch hitters in the cage before a game, you’ll see how focused they are on every swing, imagining themselves driving the ball and hitting it where it's pitched. During the home run derby every year, you'll see the last few hitters taking tee reps to stay ready for the final rounds.
Mechanical Adjustments off the Tee
Pro hitters go through slumps and periods of time when they just don't feel right at the plate.
When pros are trying to change something, they'll return to the batting tee where they can focus completely on making the adjustment, rather than worrying about hitting a sharp-breaking slider.
Then, they hope to take that small adjustment into the game that night.
Removing the difficulty of hitting a high-speed pitch is helpful in making adjustments in the same way for a seven-year-old as it is for a 27-year old pro.
The Washington Nationals purchase several low ball (adjustable 16-23 inch) Tanner Tees every other year or so. This tee is a ball on an adult hitter, so you wonder why they want it? Plenty of reasons - to work low pitches, to make a certain skill more difficult, to repeat a mechanic with a tougher pitch location, to assess body movement with a different attack angle.
Pro Hitters Get Their Feel From the Batting Tee
Feel is something lots of athletes search for—basketball players have a feel for their jump shot, weightlifters get a feel for the bar before their big lift, and baseball players have a feel for their swing.
Taking swings off a batting tee isn't just about fixing mechanics or making adjustments. It can also be about finding a feel for the swing and the bat in the hands before moving on to batting practice or live pitching.
"Getting my feel down" is what many pros seek before progressing in their daily hitting routines. They use tee work as a baseline warm up for maintaining the good habits they've built over a career.
How Do You Hit off a Batting Tee?
Here at Tanner Tees, we pride ourselves in building the best batting tee on the market. We put extra care and workmanship into our tees because we know you’ll need them your entire career.
Youth and pro hitters alike depend on batting tees day in and day out. Our goal has always been to give you the best tool to make adjustments, improve your swing, prepare for games and find your feel in the on-deck circle.
We support hitters and we believe in the power of the batting tee.
Now, go out there and hit!