A confession: I have watched very little of the play-offs or the World Series (the “World’s Series”, as they called it a century ago). I could plead that the chore of getting resettled in a new house and a new state has monopolized my time… but the truth is that contemporary baseball just isn’t quite the game I loved as a child. Even my son, whose tastes are pretty current in most things, winced at Manny Machado’s inability to cut down on his swing with two strikes. In my own very brief glimpses at the games in Boston, I saw a hitter stride to the plate with runners on first and third, one out, and proceed to take his usual full cuts, eventually hitting into the shift for an easy double play and leaving that precious run to wilt on the vine.
Now, even a seasoned professional cannot always execute his intention, especially against one of the game’s best mound artists. But is it asking too much that the hitter come to bat with a drag bunt in mind? Maybe he can’t drag a bunt. Why not, if he’s a lefty batsman? Because he has never practiced it. Yes, but why has he never practiced it?
Or what about simply directing a slow roller to the vacated shortstop position, or even toward third base? The objective isn’t to reach first safely, but merely to move the runners up–one of whom will touch home plate. I know it’s too much these days to ask for a Baltimore chop: I’m sure that nobody practices that! The ground in freezing Bean Town must have been pretty hard, though–and directing a pitch straight down into it would not have been so very difficult, especially when the pitcher was trying to get lefties out by throwing stuff that broke down and away.
Something I did see that pleasantly shocked me, however, was Chris Taylor’s footwork in the box. He actually lifts his rear foot and then quickly re-plants it as a way of loading up to swing: Nolan Arenado with a vengeance! I prefer Nolan’s linear cut straight into the pitch over Chris’s more conventional down-and-up rotational swish… but to see any back-foot movement whatever these days is like spotting a unicorn on your front lawn. I love the creativity. I’m glad that two decades of mind-numbing, cookie-cutting instruction haven’t made of this young man another baseball clone.
Yesterday I filmed and posted another of my amateurish (but, I think, improving) videos about Old School hitting. I titled it, “The Bottom Hand and the ‘Mobile Back Foot'”. Strikers of the Deadball Era didn’t prep for their stroke by edging the back foot forward only to put the idea of a bunt in the defenders’ heads. Primarily, they used this load to get their momentum going directly into the pitch. It works–it works awfully darn well! But it’s most effective with a very linear cut into the ball (minimal back-loading of the hands involved) and a hundred-percent forward weight shift. These are all things–all of them: the restless back foot, the projected bottom hand, the heavy shift to front foot–that would make contemporary coaches howl and clasp their aching heads. You do them at your peril during a tryout… unless, that is, they end each time with an impressive crack of the bat.
That’s the most distressing thing about the methods we teach: not that they don’t work, but that you have to learn them close to perfection before trotting them out in front of a professional coach. The only way you’ll overcome his prejudices is by producing clear, positive results–then and only then will he let you continue to take your highly kinky swing on his respectable playing field.
Of course, our site is intended for aspiring players who won’t be allowed on that field, anyway, because of their unpromising size. So if the coaches are going to look right past you because of your height, you have to get them to readjust their vision with hard evidence that they can’t ignore. Old School hitting is one way to achieve that result.