Lesson 22 of 33
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15. Kickback Drill

Summary

The Kickback Drill has been included in this book since the 1st edition was published in 2012. However, as I was working on this newest edition, I came across a fantastic interview with 7 time All Star and current Seattle Mariners’ hitting coach Edgar Martinez, which was aired in June 2018 by the MLB Network.

In this interview, Eric Byrnes comments on how he has studied Edgar’s impressive ability to drive the baseball to the opposite field, and the conclusion he came to was the back foot played a major role in his ability to this.

Jose Altuve learned the same move from watching Miguel Cabrera. Finally, Martinez grabs a bat and proceeds to demonstrate this very drill, saying that Mariner’s catcher Mike Zunino uses it in his batting tee work (Martinez, 2018).

So what does the Kickback Drill do? It focuses on maintaining proper upper body posture and working inside the ball through the opposite field gap. You can handle more pitches and keep the barrel in the zone longer when your posture and bat path are dialed in.

This drill also gets your weight shifted in an unorthodox way to your front side. If you are struggling with the problem of sitting and spinning on your back leg this drill may be helpful, because these two issues usually go hand in hand.

Purpose

  1. Proper upper body position: If your front shoulder opens up too quickly you have a more upper body dominant swing, that means your sequences aren’t synced up properly. This will severely limit the power of your swing, and I’ll explain more about that in #2 (below). This drill also teaches you that even if your base *3 is in a bad position, you still have a fighting chance as long as you keep your upper body slightly bent towards home plate and your rear end is pushed back slightly past your heels. If you do those two things well, you can still deliver the barrel to the zone with some accuracy even if you are off-balance or your timing is off.
  2. Transferring power from back leg into the rest of your swing: In addition to staying in line with your shoulders, you want to feel that you are transferring your power from your back leg into your front leg. Remember we squat more than we can bench press, because our legs are much stronger than our arms. In terms of the baseball swing, that means power comes from your legs. The only way to transfer that power from your legs and into the baseball is to have the swing sequence in proper order and working from the ground up.
  3. Better batting average, more solid contact, & dealing with tricky changes in velocity. A hitter who collapses on his backside too much, or isn’t using the back leg properly, ends up an overly rotational swing. In other words, he can’t do much more than spin, which creates a poor bat path. This sort of “sit and spin” bat path causes the barrel of your bat to be too quickly in and out of the zone, which results in difficulty handling a wide velocity variance between pitches. Spinning will also result in more swings and misses, or if contact is made it may end being more of a glancing or slicing contact instead of a solid, powerful hit.

Equipment

  1. Batting Tee

How to Execute this Drill

  1. Set the tee up for a pitch down the middle of the plate. Take your stride as if you were going to hit the baseball.
  2. After a slight pause start your swing towards the baseball. At the same time take your back leg and kick it back (away from home plate).

Kicking your back leg away from the plate will force your front side to stay in longer than normal to make up for the awkward feet position. Also, by kicking your leg back you are naturally transferring your weight to your front side. Keep your head looking at the contact point and really focus on keeping your upper half as square to home plate *24 as possible.

Checkpoints

The goal of this drill is to hit line drives up the middle and to the opposite field. By doing this you are over exaggerating the movement you want in the game. This will help keep your front shoulder from opening up too quickly and will help you transfer your weight to your front side properly.

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