The newest term in the game? Or just another way of saying the same thing? A revolutionary concept? Or just good mechanics? I didn’t know the terminology 25 years ago but I have recently learned that I have been teaching launch angle for years. Good for fastpitch softball? Let’s try to figure it out.
There are many things we say to hitters. Some make a great deal of sense and others are just not logical. Nevertheless, whether a statement makes sense or not, once it takes hold it sticks like glue to the game.
Two real classics are:
Hit it on the ground! (cuz they can’t bend down!).
Anyone can catch a fly ball!
Absolutely true, right? Maybe in the early years of a player’s career. Definitely, when played at a lower skill level.
But what about at the higher levels? Sorry kids, but when we get to the highest levels of the game in travel ball, high school ball and college ball, ground balls are almost always outs! Many Major League teams have known this for a few years and now our game is starting to catch on too.
If you don’t believe, spend some time watching college softball. I promise you will change your mind.
We have always told players to get on plane with the ball. What we did next though has always been a mystery. We teach players a style of swing that doesn’t really have the bat stay on plane. The ball doesn’t spend much, if any, time flying parallel to the ground, so teaching the classic level swing just doesn’t make sense.
The modern idea of launch angle means creating a swing that does stay on the true plane of the pitch more often and thus hits the ball in the air more consistently. Physics tells us that all pitches, except the rise ball do move downhill, gravity always wins.
So launch angle means swinging on a slightly uphill plane to match the flight of the ball. Picture the bat as a knife cutting through the ball. The “knife” should cut into the ball slightly below the equator and exit slightly above it. Thus creating a slightly upward swing. This creates a ball that is more likely to be in the air than on the ground. This does lead to some fly balls, and line drives and BOMBS!
Keys to creating Launch Angle:
1. Get ready early! Front foot on the ground.
2. Get into lag position early! Allows your bat to whip into the hitting zone.
3. Get on plane as soon as possible.
4. Hit the ball deep in the zone.
5. Hit the ball below the equator.
And LET IT RIP! Good luck and good hunting!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.