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Turning the barrel and 0 strike hitting

(1st post in my series on 0K hitting)

I would describe my journey learning about the swing and proper kinetics to be like the scene in the Matrix when Morpheus asks Neo if he would like to take the red pill or the blue pill. Like Neo, I chose the red pill and choose a path of continual learning and new information that challenges everything I thought I knew about hitting (and still challenges what I know). The information is out there if you dig deep enough and if you are humble enough to accept that the truth and humble enough to understand that some things you may actually believe to be true may not be the best ways to get the job done.

Turning the barrel properly is absolutely essential to being a great 0 strike hitter. Until about 5 or 6 years ago I didn’t believe this.

The 1st time I was exposed to the concept of turning the barrel was when I watched this video filmed by legendary baseball coach Gary Ward: (former head coach of Yavapai JUCO & Oklahoma State baseball and hitting coach of New Mexico baseball)

At the 5 minute mark, Coach Ward discusses the concept that in all high level swings each swing, regardless of the hitter, starts from similar launching points. Coach Ward demonstrates what this launching point is by having his hitter stand up next to a wall and Gary has the hitter place himself in a launch position with his feet, knees and hips in the position the hitter would be in prior to the bat starting its forward motion. Coach Ward is using the wall as a prop to help the hitter kinesthetically understand the proper swing kinetics.

At the start of each baseball season our hitters go through an extensive PPT of everything we need them to know about the swing. One of the 1st concepts we discuss is this idea of body positioning at launch. I square myself up next to the wall as Coach Ward has his hitter do and then I shift my feet and hips into the launch position to show our hitters how their body is supposed to be positioned at launch. Next, I have our hitters stand up and simulate it themselves so they can kinesthetically understand the proper body positioning prior to the bat starting forward movement.

Baseball Rebellion has created the “Rebel Rack” to help hitters practice this movement:

What I learned quickly is that turning the barrel actually starts with the lower body. As discussed by Coach Ward, to properly collect energy created by GRF (Ground Reaction Force), hitters must have functional knees and ankles to transfer the energy into the core. Coach Ward is stating

that to place the top half of the swing in the proper kinetic position, the lower half has to be positioned properly 1st.

Diamond Kinetcis did a breakdown of Nick Senzel’s college swing which also states some of these same truths:

Everyday our team starts our batting practices with a drill set of 3 “leadup drills” and the very 1st drill is a barrel turn drill that we work through to emphasize feel and acceleration. During our barrel turn work, we start our hitters in their launch positions and we have them start with 70 – 80% swings so they can “feel” their kinetics working properly. After about 5 – 7 swings, we ask them to ACCELARATE the barrel from this same position for about 5-7 more swings. Video link:

· – “Feeling Kinetics”

Doing this EVERYDAY for 150 days or so really helps to emphasize this launch concept and it is rewarding to see hitters improve at this concept as the months pass by and by the 4th year of doing this, it becomes 2nd nature to the hitters. Early in the season it is imperative that a coach(es) circulates the cage and gives tips to players to be sure they are executing drills properly and not inadvertently creating poor habits. My favorite thing about the drill set is that by the 2nd and 3rd months, players begin to coach one another and give each other excellent feedback on their swings!

(In the drills filmed, Jareno is a senior in his video and Floyd is a junior in is video)

The take-aways that I see from starting the swing form the proper launch position have been:

1. We TAKE MORE BALLS / and we can do proper takes without swinging.

a. The hands 1st hitter and the weight shift hitter have an amazingly hard time properly “checking” their swing once their momentum begins

2. Our bats stay in the hitting zone longer and our bat paths are more effective

a. We actually have an old “Zepp” that we utilize to test this. (we may need to upgrade now that Zepp no longer supports baseball)

3. We maximize our energy transfer to the ball and are able to increase our exit velo

a. We have our baseball managers sit int eh cage with a radar gun and measure exit velo off the bat. We previously posted this on a board to see

4. Starting properly literally = separation and proper separation allows for “FLA” (front leg adjustments) to be done on off speed pitches.

a. If a hitter does not utilize this launch position, it is very difficult for the hitter to use a front leg adjustment as discussed in my blog post:

About the author: Coach Turco is a 5 time state champion hitting coach who coaches a nationally recognized high school program in Marietta, Ga. Coach Turco publishes the blog “State Championship Hitting” and posts work samples on twitter @championhitter

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