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Stepping Up to the Plate – Hitters Freezing in the Batter’s Box

Hey baseball families, stepping into the batter’s box during a live game can be a monumental shift for young players, especially when compared to the comfort of batting practice. The added pressure is palpable as every eye in the stands focuses on them and the roar of the crowd fills their ears.

The field itself feels different too—larger and more imposing, with each base seeming just a bit further away than in practice. It’s in these moments that freezing up becomes a real challenge, even for the most practiced young sluggers. Learning to hit a baseball is as much about handling the spotlight that suddenly shines bright on them the moment they step onto the field as it is about the mechanics of the game. But fear not! We’ve got some strategies to help your player feel as cool and confident in the game as they do in the cage.

Credit: C. Brown

Here are some proven tips to help your player stay cool and swing confidently when it counts.

Establish a Routine

Getting into a routine can make all the difference. Teach your player that after each pitch, they should step out of the box, take a practice swing, and loosen up those muscles. This little breather helps reset their mind and body, keeping them from becoming a statue waiting for the next pitch. Just be wary of some umpires with little patience who may force your hitting to not step out of the batter’s box to speed up the night game.

Eye the Pitcher

Make sure your player is turning their head fully towards the pitcher, catching the throw with both eyes. It’s all about proper tracking — seeing the ball better means hitting the ball better.

Focus Flexibility


Rather than having your player lock their gaze on a single point, coach them to initially focus on the pitcher’s cap or jersey. As the pitcher begins the windup, they should shift their attention to the pitcher’s throwing hand. This technique of shifting focus can make the ball appear to travel slower, providing more time to react. I’ve experienced this effect firsthand; when I was coaching first base during one 12U game, I watched a batter closely as he hit a screaming line drive right at me. Because I was so focused, it felt like time slowed down, similar to those slow-motion scenes from “The Matrix.” I was able to lean back just in time as the ball whizzed by. This kind of intense focus can help your player too, making the fast-moving game a bit easier to manage.

Follow Through with Your Gaze

Players should track the ball “all the way” until the bat makes contact. This ensures they’re fully engaged in the hit, not just swinging blindly. As pitchers start to throw with increasing speed, batters will need to focus on a spot (usually just in front of the home plate) to make contact with a baseball.

Credit: AP

Eyes Wide Open

Believe it or not, this is one of the most common things I’ve seen as a youth baseball coach. It’s crucial they keep their eyes open during the swing. Snap some high-speed photos to check if they’re blinking or closing their eyes at the crucial moment. If they are, start some drills with tennis balls and a helmet with a face mask to train them to keep those eyes wide.

Load Up

When the pitcher starts their motion, your player should begin loading their stance, preparing to unleash their swing at the perfect moment. This ‘loading’ is key to a powerful, timely swing.

Additional Tips

  • Stay Positive: Encourage your player to keep a positive mindset. A confident batter is a successful batter.
  • Practice Makes Permanent: Regularly simulate game situations in practice so when it comes time to step up to the plate, they’re ready to swing without hesitation.
  • Breathing Exercises: Teach them to take deep breaths before stepping into the box. A calm player is a focused player.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, transforming the batter’s box from a place of pressure to a platform of potential is all about preparation and mindset. By establishing a consistent routine, ensuring proper visual tracking, and teaching focus flexibility, young players can significantly improve their performance under pressure. Remember, it’s not just about swinging the bat; it’s about preparing mentally and physically to face each pitch with confidence. With these tips, your young slugger is set to step up to the plate, unfreeze, and hit with the same ease and power they show in practice. Keep practicing, stay positive, and watch your player grow into a confident batter, ready to take on the challenges of the game.