Does stance matter?

Pretty clever title, huh? Not bad for being past my bed time.

One of the many things about hitting that is debated constantly in the softball world is whether the stance is important. There is a school of thought that says that the stance is cosmetic, and that as long as a hitter can get to a proper launch position in time it doesn’t matter what kind of stance she uses.

That is no doubt true to a degree. Yet look at that statement again. “As long as a hitter can get to a proper launch position in time.” In time is the key. And that’s where I think the stance really does matter, at least as a hitter is learning to hit.

The physics are pretty simple. Look at it in terms of another skill. Suppose you’re hitting fly balls to outfielders. Which will be easier for them to do — start by watching the ball come off the bat, or start with their backs to you and then react after they hear the “tonk” of the bat? I think the answer is obvious. In truth it really doesn’t matter intrinsically which direction they face as long as they’re able to pick up the ball and make the catch. A catch is a catch. But it will be far easier to accomplish the skill when they can already see the ball off the bat. Tihe younger or less experienced the player, the more important it is.

The same goes for teaching hitting. There is an optimum stance to put hitters into to begin the learning process. It consists of having the feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, toes equal distant from the plate, the weight distributed evenly, knees bent, and the waist bent so the shoulders are over the toes; the bat should be at a 45 degree angle, lifted slightly up and back from a resting place on the shoulder. This position makes it easy for the hitter to get to a good launch position.

Once her swing shows signs of power and speed with consistency, she can start varying from the base position to find out what works best for her. She’ll need to take small steps, preferably one at a time. Maybe the hands need to be held a little higher. Maybe she wants to stand a little taller, or crouch a little lower to start. Whatever it is, if she has a solid base to work from she’ll be a lot better off than just trying what she’s seen on TV and hoping for the best.
Vicky Galindo is probably the best example. What she does works very well for her. But I doubt I would teach it to a beginner.

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