Speed Kills!

Written By Natasha Watley

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Speed Kills


Speed kills!!! I know this firsthand being a Shortstop and having to throw out someone who gets down the line in less than 2.9 seconds. Now throw into the mix someone who is technically getting a head start in the batters box to get down the line and they may hit it hard, soft, or even may bunt. Yes, I'm talking about slappers! Lucky me, I get to partake in this activity offensively, so I'm not too mad. There is no better feeling than putting a ball in play, putting some pressure on the defense and beating it out. This truly is my rush and it never gets old. Slapping has been a part of my game for about 18 years, and truly is an aspect that continues to keep me in love with the game.

Slapping has definitely evolved over the years . Whereas before you could pretty much get away with solely being a slapperlbunter, in other words just a short gamer with no power so to speak. Nowadays with better pitching, defense and game all around, to survive, it's required to be a triple threat. Being able to use different types of slaps (hard, soft, chop), swinging away, bunting as reliable tools in your arsenal is the best recipe for a successful triple threat.

Slapping is definitely a skill that has taken years for me to piece together (I'm still learning!). Slapping has been my bread and butter so to speak and has been my forte throughout the majority of my career. Before attending UCLA, I was primarily just a soft slapper that put the ball on the ground and occasionally mixed in some bunts. I didn't even have a power/hard slap!

By, the end of my career, it was necessary to not only reinvent myself but necessary to open up my game by adding a power game. By the end of my career in college, I was standing in and swinging away for power regularly. In my senior year I had 10 home runs vs. 1 home run as a freshman! Even then, I didn't really do anything with power off my slap. By the time I reached the National team, that's when I started developing a hard slap. Now, in Japan, because of their quickness & strengths defensively I swing away at a higher percentage vs. slapping. I have definitely reached a point in my career where now I'm comfortable hitting, slapping or bunting, in any given situation . I can say this now at the young ripe age of 31 ! (Sarcasm) So point being, it has taken time to develop all my tools, to effectiveness & comfort ability.

I will devote the majority of my columns to slapping/short game/triple threat. In this article I will be listing my top 10 tips of slapping/being a triple threat, which are always evolving. So please keep in mind, that the order they are written in, aren't set in stone in order of importance nor are some of the aspects of slapping that are not listed not viewed as unimportant. Just my top tips if you asked me today. So, over the next couple of months, I will use these tips in my up coming articles.

10 tips for Slapping/Triple Threat

10. Reading the defense/defenders

9. Using field conditions to your advantage

8. Know what your doing before the pitch is thrown (i.e. slapping vs. hitting away or bunting)

7. Keep batting stance consistent

6. Utilize your strengths (if good bunter, find ways to set that up in At Bats)

5. Stay closed

4. Perfect one tool at a time (when learning/starting out)

3. Maximize batters box

2. K.I.S.S (Keep it stupid simple) Ball in play .. .ON THE GROUND

1. Timing is everything

I encourage all young slappers to be patient in their rate of perfecting every aspect there is to being a successful triple threat. It takes time to develop, so perfecting a single skill at a time is highly recommended. Happy Slapping & Good Luck!

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Natasha Watley: has mastered softball on every level; from travel ball, all the way through her professional career by taking home a gold medal from the 2004 Olympics & a silver medal from 2008 Olympics. During the 2004 Olympics, Watley, assisted the US Softball Team on their third consecutive gold medal in Athens, by breaking the Olympic record for stolen bases. Also internationally, Watley is a two-time Pan American Gold Medalist three-time World Champion, and a four-time World Cup Champion. Visit Natasha's website at NatachaWatley.com

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