Perhaps the most commonly used piece of hitting equipment is the batting tee. I use it for almost every lesson that I do. However, I have a love/hate relationship with the batting tee. Let me explain.
Why do I love the tee?
The tee is an awesome implement when working on certain mechanical issues. The tee allows hitters to really focus and break things down in their swing. Most of the swings that I have hitters take off of the tee are sub max effort swings where they are trying to exaggerate certain mechanical changes we are trying to get into their swing. Often times, these muscle memory changes can only occur in a controlled environment such as hitting off of a tee.
Why do I hate the tee?
While the tee can help hitters gain feel in their swing and allow hitters to slow things down, often times hitters change their swings when working on the tee. I see hitters change their bat path, get too pushy with their hands, and become out of sync with coordinating their body. Hitters can take a bad swing off of the tee in a cage and the result may look nice, but would not translate to a good swing in a game setting. In addition, I see far too many ground balls off of the tee due to changes in bath path.
What should hitters try to do when they are working on the tee?
Hitters are often told to try and hit line drives to the back of the cage. While not the worst advice given to hitters, hitters should aim to drive the ball to the top of the cage. Why?
The biggest mechanical issue that I work on with hitters is creating more upward bat path in their swings to match the plane of the incoming pitch. The reason for this is that this upward path meeting the downward plane of the ball will increase the chances of producing line drives. Off of the tee, the ball is not moving, it is stationary. Therefore, if a hitter takes a proper upward bat path, the ball should be more elevated than it would be in a game. When a hitter creates line drives to the back of the cage, the bat path is often too flat.
2 of my Favorite Tee Drills
I have numerous drills that I work on with players off of the tee based on what their specific needs are. However, these 2 drills are ones that I use most often with hitters to create a good bat path.
1. Bat under stick
Have a coach hold a long plastic stick about a foot behind the baseball at the same height as the ball and have the hitter swing under the stick to hit the ball. This will recreate the proper bat path.
2. Double tee Drill
- Set up 2 tees about 1-2 feet apart/back tee should be about 3-6 inches lower than front tee. Have hitter try and hit both balls to create an optimal bat path
- Set up 2 tees about 1-2 feet apart/back tee should be about 3-6 inches lower than front tee to create an upward bat path