“What are you doing with a kid’s toy?”
“Come on! Get a pitching machine already!”
These are just two of many “motivating” remarks you would hear from people when talking about batting tee. But with all due respect, they know nothing of the sport and should not be putting ideas into your head. Ask any professional baseball player, and he would tell you. A baseball tee is the single most useful tool in honing your skills as a hitter. It eliminates the distractions of thinking about pitching type, speed, and trajectory and lets you focus completely on your stance and hitting power.
A lot of the stigma against batting tees comes from T-ball, where the player will hit off the batting tee instead of a real pitcher. So, people think that as you grow up, you should outgrow your batting tee, which frankly could not be further from the truth. Even an MLB hitter will often warm up with a batting tee before heading up to the plate. So, if a professional thinks a batting tee is worthy of using, there is little argument against it.
So, the answer’s simple – hitting off a batting tee is a great practice. If you want to become a better hitter and fix small nuances in your hitting stance to get more power and accuracy, get a batting tee. It will help you finetune your fundamentals and become the best version of yourself. Let me tell you how a batting tee can help.
How Does a Batting Tee Help?
A batting tee is a must-have piece of equipment for any hitter trying to make it big in the sport. Even MLB hitters warm up with a batting tee before getting on the home plate. Back when I was a youth, I used to practice my hitting religiously with a tee that my dad got for me. And as an ex-pro and a coach, I believe that the utility it provides in training young hitters is incomparable to any other pieces of equipment you could buy. So, here are the major advantages of using a batting tee.
1. Repetition is Important
Repetition is the key to honing your skills when you are a hitter. But the problem is, when you are practicing against a live pitcher or even a good pitching machine out there, you will not be able to practice hitting the ball in the same strike zone every single time.
When a pitcher throws the ball, you will have to track the progress and speed of the ball and hit it at the perfect position. It might be a bit too much to ask from a beginner who has no experience hitting at all. However, since the ball is static, this becomes much easier to work on your hitting technique with a batting tee.
2. Isolating Your Weakness
A batting tee also helps to isolate minor weaknesses and nuances of a hitter. Maybe you are holding the bat wrong, or when you are making contact with the bat, your shoulders are a bit slouched. These sorts of problems become a lot clearer when you slow things down and use a batting tee to practice your swings.
The ability to isolate the smallest issues and work on them is a fantastic opportunity for any hitter and coach. Since a batting tee holds the ball at a specific point in the strike zone, you can break down individual moments of hitting the ball and pinpoint the exact issues with your hits.
3. You are Your Own Coach
With a batting tee at your hand, you will become your own coach. Don’t get me wrong; I still prefer having a real coach to work with overtraining without a coach. But if you have a batting tee that lets you adjust the height and other elements, you will be able to have a decent training session on your own.
Sure, it will take a bit more effort and a keen eye on your part. But since the ball is static, and you are not on a timer to hit the ball, you will be able to see exactly where your issues are. I will, however, recommend using a camera to record your batting stance to help you figure out where you need to improve.
4. Portable and Cheap
Most, if not all, batting tees are extremely portable. You can easily disassemble it and put it in your bag. I remember back when I used to practice – I would take my batting tee to the baseball park and take a bucket full of baseballs to work on my hitting skills. Furthermore, because of the relatively lower price tag of a batting tee, especially when compared to a pitching machine, most students can afford it with their allowances. With just a hundred bucks, you will be able to afford a pretty decent batting tee that lets you improve your hitting in many ways.
How to Hit Off a Batting Tee
While hitting a baseball hurling towards the strike zone fast might be difficult for new players, hitting a ball that is perched on top of a tee is pretty simple and straightforward. You can set the tee in different positions around the strike zone to practice different hitting angles. Anyways, hitting off a batting tee is as simple as the A, B, and C. You need your baseball bat, baseballs, and most importantly, a safe zone where no one is standing in front of you when you practice your swings.
Here is a step-by-step guideline on hitting a baseball off a batting tee.
Step 1: General Tee Setup and Good Practice
Remember, the main goal of using a batting tee is to eliminate the bad practice and make your swings more powerful and consistent. So, the first step to hitting off a batting tee is to set it up correctly and give yourself a reference to see if you are overstriding while you hit the baseball.
Now, what is overstriding?
If you have ever trained in hitting under a coach, you should be pretty familiar with the term. But for those that don’t know, overstriding is when you step too far forward with your leading foot when you are hitting the baseball. Overstriding can limit your hitting power and, in turn, cause your swings to become lackluster.
The good thing about training with a tee is that you can set it up at different heights and positions around the home plate to get different hitting angles. So, I will leave the proper positioning up to you. If you have a coach, he too can help you set it up in different spots to change up your strikes. If you have any decent baseball tee, you should have the option to set it up at different heights. Do not forget to use this feature, as this will enable you to get much more versatile use out of it.
But the thing you have to remember is to never step your foot ahead of the tee. You can use a cone or some other item and place it in front of you in alignment with the tee. That way, you will have a reference frame to help prevent overstriding and help you get more swing power consistently.
Step 2: Proper Stance
Once you have your tee set up on the home plate, take your athletic stance. The most common stance to take is to bend your knees slightly and loosen them up. Make sure your knuckles are lined up, and your grip on the baseball bat is strong and secure. With a batting tee, you do not have to worry about the speed or trajectory of the ball. This is a good thing, as this means you will be able to focus completely on your swinging angle and strength. However, you should not keep your eyes on the baseball sitting on the tee at all times.
Remember, in a real game, you will be playing against the pitcher, and you need to keep your eyes forward. That is why you should try to imagine the pitch coming towards the strike zone and visualize its path even when you are training using a batting tee.
Step 3: Ball Contact
Connecting your baseball bat with the ball is hard work when you are playing against a real pitcher. But when you are hitting off a batting tee, it is much easier to isolate your issues and tackle them individually. As you are hitting the ball, your stance must be perfect to deliver the perfect blow.
As I say to my youth batters, “It’s all in the hips.” At the moment of contact, your hips should move towards the ball. If you are not overstriding, your hand position should be fine. You do not want your elbows to get too close to your body but rather have enough space for a smooth motion forward.
Step 5: Follow Through
Do not try to stop the bat the moment you hit the ball. If you stop the motion suddenly, two things can happen. Either you will not get enough power behind the hit, or if you did get power, you would not be able to keep your balance properly. As a batter, the moment you hit the ball, you need to run to first base.
If you can’t keep your balance, you will not be able to explode into a run after hitting the ball, which is not all that great for a batter. Extend your arm and follow through to your strike so that the momentum of the bat does not force you to lose your balance.
Step 6: Record Your Progress
There are only five steps to hitting off a baseball batting tee. But I will leave you with an extra step that is helpful, especially to those not training under a coach. Whenever you are working on your swings, make sure you turn on the video camera on your phone and track your progress. It can serve as a positive reinforcement when you look at how far you have come.
Learning to hit is hard, and it can be even more challenging when you are learning to do it yourself. But as long as you don’t give up, you will definitely become the best version of yourself as a hitter.
What I Recommend for Hitters of All Age and Skill Levels:
Before I take my leave, let me talk a bit about my go-to batting tee. If you’re having some trouble finding a high-quality batting tee, have a look below.
TANNER TEE The ORIGINAL Premium Baseball/Softball Batting Tee
The Tanner Original Batting Tee holds a special place in my heart. I spent the majority of my childhood hitting ball after ball to work on my fundamentals. If you ask me, a lot of the trophies that I won in my high-school days were thanks to this tee.
I got this tee as a Christmas gift from my father. Back then, I was just starting out on a youth team, and naturally, I had little skill and practice under my belt. But thanks to this batting tee, I could work from scratch and hone my swings to perfection. But enough small talk, let’s take a look at its feature.
The Tanner Original Tee comes with an adjustable frame that lets you go from 26 inches all the way up to 43 inches. With such a flexible height range, I could work on my inside, outside, and middle swings with no trouble at all. All I had to do was adjust the height.
But the best part of the tee is not its height adjustment but rather its top. Inexpensive options on the market often come with a poor top design that not only minimizes your strike power but also gets damaged after a couple of swings. But the hand-crafted Flextop of the Tanner Original is on a league of its own.
Now, keep in mind that I was quite young when I got my tee. So naturally, my strikes were not perfect, and a lot of the time, I would hit the top instead of the ball. But since the Flextop is soft and rubbery, there is absolutely no chance of damaging the tee because of missed swings.
Another benefit of having such a soft top is that you will actually feel the ball as it makes contact with the bat. So, you are not mindlessly hitting the ball but rather guiding it where you want it to go. This is one of the many advantages that the Tanner Original has over other cheaper options on the market.
It is also quite lightweight, weighing in at around 6 to 7 pounds which is a good thing for most people. Why? Because this means you can easily take it to your nearest baseball park to work on your swings, even if you are not currently on a team.
However, though the Tanner is easier to carry than other options, it also presents a major, and I would say only flaw. It is susceptible to the bane of all batting tees; the tee walk. This means, as you keep hitting ball after ball, the tee will move out of position after some time.
But this should not be a complete dealbreaker, as there is a quick workaround to this issue. Simply place a couple of sandbags or add some weight over the base, and you should have no trouble with tee walk anymore.
But if the tee walk issue is too much for you to handle, you can also look into the Tanner the Heavy batting tee. It costs a bit higher, but the base has three points of contact design which makes it a bit steadier than the Original.
As a sub-100-dollar option, the Tanner Original is not exactly “cheap.” But it is still a hell of a lot cheaper than other high-end options that boast a “premium” feel and performance. If you are working on your fundamentals, this is one of the best choices you can make to achieve perfect swings.
With All Said and Done
If you are a hitter, a batting tee is your best friend. It gives you the best way to work on your swing fundamentals and accuracy. Since you do not have to bother with the pitch speed and trajectory, you can work on your basics in a safe environment without any extra pressure. And if you’re thinking that it’s better to use a pitching machine, just know that it’s the pitching machine practice is up for debate.
Not all coaches/pros see eye to eye in this issue. That’s why using a batting tee is the simplest and safest way to get your basic drills done. Though it allows you to practice on your own, I would always recommend training under a coach for proper guidance. Any coach worth his salt will be able to accelerate your training tenfold compared to if you were training on your own.
I hope my article could shed any doubts or misgivings you may have had about using a batting tee. It is a fantastic training tool and, when used the right way, can help you achieve a better swing technique and accuracy. Cheers!