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Former MN Twin Doug Bernier shares his thoughts on how to use a batting tee like a pro.
After baseballs, gloves, and bats, batting tees are the most widely used baseball or softball equipment in the sport. The evolution of the modern batting tee began with Joe Tanner, professional coach, and inventor of the Tanner Tee. Since then, the batting tee has become an essential training tool for baseball hitters, from tee-ball to the big leagues.
With a batting tee, a hitter can slow down the hitting process and focus on their batting mechanics. Once the proper swing mechanics are ingrained into the hitter, the repetitive nature of hitting the ball off a tee reinforces their muscle memory so that in a game situation, the hitter instantly reacts to a thrown ball without thinking. A batting tee is portable and will also allow you to practice on your own time, without a partner or coach.
Improper tee placement is the number one mistake that creates bad habits when using the tee. Lunging, casting, extending your arms, weak contact, and bat drag can all be caused by faulty tee placement.
There are some important strategies to be aware of to determine where to place the tee for the optimal contact point when practicing with a batting tee. The most important thing to know is that these strategies will be different for every hitter.
One of the benefits of a hitting tee is the ability to position the ball exactly where you want to hit the ball. Yet, many hitters make the mistake of not moving the tee and instead, adjust their body to the placement of the ball on the tee.
This creates poor strike zone awareness.
It also causes the hitter difficulty in practicing correct swing mechanics for different locations.
Tee placement is based on you, your body, and your swing – not home plate. Yes, home plate is a great reference point but each individual tends to stand in a different position in the box, plus other hitters will be shorter or taller than you, and their arm length will be different, meaning each will have contrasting points of contact that are optimal for them. Keeping the tee placement designed for another hitter will only lead to bad habits and frustration.
Your stance is a reflection of personal style and comfort, balance and productivity. Repeatability is the key ingredient. Whatever stance you settle on, the less complex your stance, the easier it will be to repeat. If you are constantly changing your position in the box, repeated barrel accuracy and strike zone awareness are much harder to achieve with consistency. Another factor to consider, if you are constantly changing your position in the batter’s box, you won’t fully grasp the areas of the strike zone you handle well and what areas you need to work on.
Standing in the same position, every workout, allows you to train yourself to get the barrel of the bat to different spots within the strike zone.
Now, let’s talk about how we should hit the ball on the tee.
When your front foot plants into the ground (also called foot strike) just before you swing, the batting tee should be 1 to 2 inches in front of your forward knee. This will allow you to hit the ball up the middle of the field.
Keeping your same stance, move the tee an inch back and an inch away from you. This will help you catch the ball a little deeper so the swing will pull the ball to the opposite center. Placing it an inch further away from you will help you pull it fully to the opposite field.
Using the same method and keeping your same stance, move the hitting tee forward an inch from the original center spot and an inch toward you. This will allow you to get ahead of the ball and pull it.
One great tool that Doug is fond of is the Tanner Hitting Deck which has the ideal contact points for both right and left-handed hitters in an easy to understand, illustrated and portable mat. With the side ruler, the Hitting Deck allows hitters to be aware of their feet placement as well so that they can start to find where they will find the most success with their stance and tee placement.
Tee work is so important because it helps you groove your swing and helps you practice weaknesses in your game. These tips from Doug Bernier show how to use a batting tee like a pro. Tanner Tees wants to thank Doug for these great tips and for using the Tanner Heavy, a weighted batting tee with a ten-pound “claw” that provides extra stability on any hitting surface, including a raised home plate.
Continue reading more hitting content with "How to Use a Batting Tee Like a Pro" - Part Two!
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