Hitting a baseball is an art form that has many different strategies that can fit many different players. The art of hitting the baseball to opposite field or “the other way” is what I would like to touch on in this article. I believe there are three factors that go into hitting the ball the other way: timing, strength and mechanics.
Timing: To have the best chance to drive the ball the other way, the hitter must wait for the pitch to get deeper into the strike zone. It comes down to strength at contact point. When a hitter has to reach out to the baseball too soon, the arms lengthen out, which decreases strength at contact and also gives less room to extend through the baseball. Best case scenario for a hitter here would be to flip the ball the other way and hope it finds a hole in the defense.
The ideal point to make contact on a pitch you are trying to hit the other way is inside the front hip to the middle of the body. Having this point of contact should allow the hitter to be quick and compact to contact allowing for good extension through the baseball. The reason many hitters struggle with timing and letting the ball get deep is simply because of how they practice. Time and time again I see hitters take batting practice simply to see how hard and how far they can hit the ball, almost always hitting the ball to pull side. At most levels, pitchers try to throw hitters on the outside half of the plate to expose this fault of hitters.
Strength: Strength ties in with timing a little bit here. As a hitter, we are at our strongest point when our hand path is short and direct to the baseball, not allowing hour hands to swing out wide from our body. This can only happen if we let the ball travel inside the front hip as you have read above. What is more important here is how strength affects our mental attitude towards hitting the ball the other way. Many players, especially young players, don’t like going the other way because they can’t seem to get as many extra base hits as they do when pulling the ball. There is no way to fix this but to continue strength training as the player gets older. If the hitter continues to hit the ball the other way through his youth, he will eventually see strides in his ability to drive the ball over outfielders as he gets older and more comfortable with the swing path.
Mechanics: The last challenge of hitting the ball the other way is the discipline it takes to maintain the proper mechanics for an opposite field swing. First let’s start with the feet and hips. There is no change to the stance pre swing, but as the swing occurs the drive and momentum of the swing should be going towards the inside one-third of the baseball. This means the rotation and drive of the back foot and the back hip should be directed towards the opposite field. Some hitters many struggle with this movement if they are used to swinging their hips open to pull the ball.
Next, the hands need to be in the correct position. The bottom hand should be slightly ahead of the top hand to allow for extension and decrease the chance of the hands rolling over. If you think about making contact at the inside third of the baseball, as I mentioned above, this will help you maintain the proper hand position and bat angle.
Last is the ability to extend the hands and barrel through the baseball with the correct bat path. At contact the back elbow should be bent at almost 90 degrees while having the bottom hand remain in front of the top hand. From here the hitter should now be pushing through the baseball towards the area of where they are attempting to hit the baseball. Once the hitter has pushed through the baseball to the point where their arms are completely extended, then they can proceed to the follow through of the swing.
Hopefully this article has helped you understand what it takes to hit the baseball the other way, and how challenging this task can actually be at times. As I said to start, hitting is an art form that can be done in many different ways. Take notice, appreciate and learn from those with the ability to hit the ball the other way. It is one of the few traits that all great hitters have alike.