We began by working on the footwork, followed by the concept of soft hands and fast feet for drag bunts. This month I will be concluding my series on the art of slapping by focusing on slapping the ball and I warn you now it may be rather complicated so try and focus as you follow along.
We call it a catch when you … Catch the ball. We call it a throw when you … Throw the ball. We call it a dive when you … Dive.
So what do you think you do when you “slap the ball?”
A. Load up and crush it.
B. Swing through it.
C. Slap it.
If you guessed A or B you might have been taking lessons with someone else, or you might have watched someone else who is a slapper or maybe you just never really thought about it. To me the simplest explanation is to just keep it simple “Slap it.”
Put your right hand up on your shoulder like you are holding a bat and pretend you are at the plate as a leftie. Take a full swing and notice the path that your right hand travels along. That's called a “swing.” I know pretty complicated huh? Stay with me. Now put your right hand up on your shoulder like you are holding a bat but this time imagine that the shortstop has said you are ugly and that your feet smell so in this situation I give you full permission to slap her. Go ahead imagine that you are slapping the shortstop, not swinging at her, through her, just slapping her. Notice that you have a completely different motion and hand path when you “slap” than when you “swing.”
A “slap” is shorter, quicker and more compact than a “full swing.” it is also very “directional.” Which is exactly what we are looking for. More often than not the desired path is what is called the 5-6 hole. That space on the field between the 3rd baseman and the shortstop (positions 5 and 6 when you are keeping the scorebook.) We want the ball to be far enough to the 3rd baseman's left side that they either can't reach it fast enough or would have to dive in order to get it, and we want it far enough to the shortstops right side that she will have to move and make a back hand play to get it. Very specific area wouldn't you say?
This would be used when the 3rd baseman plays way up in order to stop you from trying a drag bunt right up the line like we worked on last month. If she is playing back, then there is no reason to ever do anything but that soft bunt right up the line. The other big key for execution is that we slap the ball into the ground we aren't trying for a line drive. That's more of a “power slap” or better translated “real swing while our feet our moving.
The best way to practice this is by using a batting tee and simply drawing a line on the infield that goes right to that 5-6 hole. Same footwork as always, but instead of dragging the ball you want to imagine that you are slapping that line you drew because rt said you were ugly and your feet smell. You will want to practice that over and over and over until you feel like to “slap” the ball along the line regardless of where the pitch comes in at. You'll see in the you are the Queen of the World and aren't missing that line by more than a few inches either way. At that point challenge yourself a little more. Graham demonstrates a great two tee drill in this month's video. Watch rt, and try rt yourself … the beauty is that you can't cheat that drill. If you've been slapping but have problems hitting the ball back to the pitcher, this drill ensures that you keep your hands back until you need them.
Your goal is to be able video that I challenge Graham with tosses that are way inside. As you practice with tosses or off a pitching machine ensure that you aren't just slapping the perfect outside pitch all the time. Force yourself to adjust your hands to “slap” at that line.
The other key location for slappers is the 3-4 hole, between the 1st baseman and the 2nd baseman. This is used if the 1st baseman is playing way up to stop you from trying the drag bunt up the first base line. You want to ensure that the “slap” is sharp enough that it gets past the 1st baseman and forces the 2nd baseman to field the ball. Who covers 1st base in that situation? The slow first basemen who only has a 10 foot lead on you by the time she realizes the ball is past her and she has lunged to her right side? How's that going to work out for her? If the 2nd baseman didn't cheat to cover first base thinking it would be soft and stays “home” to field the ball there still isn't anyone on the field who will beat you to first base.
The last thing I want you to consider this month is that the rules of the game don't change just because you are a slapper. Successful teams know that you “don't hit in front of the lead runner.” Which means the worst thing you can do with girls at 1st and 2nd is to hit the ball to the left side where it would be easy for the SS to simply toss the ball to the 3rd baseman. That's insane for hitters, and equally insane for slappers. But it's awesome for pitchers. So that sneaky little Barbie doll on the mound is likely going to entice you to do just that by pitching you a lot of low outside pitches, the ones you love to slap to that spot.
Don't fall for her tricks. There is no reason at all that you can't “slap” 10 of those pitches in a row foul up the 3rd base line. You aren't bunting, you are slapping. If you've practiced slapping along that line even on high inside pitches, then you can certainly control can certainly control the head of the bat well enough to slap her outside pitches foul and force her to try and “fool” you with an inside pitch. When she gives you that inside pitch “slap” rt to the right side of the field and advance your runners. Just like a hitter would do.
Always remember the keys to the art of slapping are proper footwork that gives you a balanced base, soft hands and fast feet and “slap” the ball instead of trying to kill the ball. Go cause some havoc out there kid and be sure to GET DIRTY!
Dalton Ruer: Coach Ruer has been using softball to encourage and motivate athletes for 15 years. Throughout the year he is a private softball instructor to many college bound athletes in Georgia. He facilitates team based clinics and instructs at many elite and college recruiting softball camps. His specialties are helping players verbalize their dreams and establish a plan to achieve them and helping players overcome the fears that are holding them back from being exceptional athletes. He has produced 6 instructional DVD’s covering all aspects of how to win the short game and how to dive for the ball. Keep up with Coach Dalton by visiting his blog and resource site at CrossTrainingSoftball.com. Join Dalton On: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube
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