Step-by-Step: Basic Hitting

01
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Take It Slow, Because It Might Be Tough

BAT HITTING BASEBALL
Stephen Marks/The Image Bank/Getty Images

It's a round ball and a rounded bat. Now hit it square.

That's the challenge for any hitter in baseball or softball. The ball is coming in fast, perhaps dodging and darting depending on what the pitcher is trying to do, and a hitter has a split second to decide where and when to swing and how fast to swing. The best hitters have great vision, quick reflexes, good upper-body strength, sound judgment and a drive to always make themselves better.

Besides all of those traits, what else do you need? The basics, of course.

02
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Batting Gloves And Bats

Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals stands ready to bat in a game on May 12, 2007. Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Pick out a bat that isn't too heavy. As a beginner, the lighter the bat, the better.  A trick to making the bat lighter is to "choke up," which means to move your hands up on the bat an inch or two. It's actually rare to see somebody swing a bat that's too light.

A batting glove is up to you. Most wear them to get a better grip on the bat. Some like the feel of being able to touch the bat.

03
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Getting In The Box

Albert Pujols, and most major-leaguers, stand in the back of the batter's box in order to give them the maximum amount of time to adjust to a major-league fastball. Against a curveball-style pitcher, Pujols might move up in the box. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Get into the batter's box next to home plate (and if you're playing baseball or fast-pitch softball, make sure you're wearing a helmet). If the pitcher throws hard, you might want to be in the back of the batter's box, because you'll have a split second more time to see the ball. If it's a pitcher who likes curveballs, a hitter might move up because he can catch the pitch before it breaks.

Then you have to decide whether you're going to stay close to home plate or if you're going to stand away from it. If you're close to the plate, you can hit an outside pitch easier, but you must be wary of the inside pitch that could force a weak hit. The opposite can happen if you're too far away from the plate. So find a happy medium.

04
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Getting A Good Grip

Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals stands ready to bat against the Reds on April 26, 2007. Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

When gripping the bat, your hands should touch. If you're right handed, it's left hand on the bottom and right hand on the top (it's opposite for lefties). There should be roughly six inches between the bat and your chest. Hold the bat up, don't let it rest on your shoulder. Spread your legs roughly shoulder-width apart. Some hitters prefer a wider stance (such as Albert Pujols above), but remember that he developed his swing with years of practice.

Don't stand straight up – just bend your knees a little so you don't feel stiff. It puts you in a ready position.

05
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Eyes On The Ball

Albert Pujols stands ready to bat against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 2, 2007. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Above is a reverse view of Pujols' ready position.

Try to pick up the ball as early as possible for better success. And never take your eyes off of it.

Keep your weight on your back foot for now, but be ready to have that shift immediately.

06
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Stride And Connect

Albert Pujols connects with a pitch against the Giants on July 10, 2005. Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

If you're right-handed, take your left leg and pick it up slightly as the pitch is released. (It will be the opposite if you're left-handed.) As the pitch comes toward you, stride forward roughly a foot so you're building momentum toward the pitcher.

By now, you should have figured out whether the pitch is good enough to hit. If it's definitely a ball, continue your stride but watch the ball go by. If you think it's a strike, turn your hips through the ball and swing the bat.

Your back foot should pivot, but not leave the ground. You know you've done this correctly if your foot is pointing downward. You should feel your weight shifting forward.

Keep your elbows toward your body so the bat goes in a tight circle. If you're reaching for an outside pitch, you'll lose power. But if there are two strikes, there's little choice, of course.

Your bottom hand should be pulling the bat over the plate while your top hand guides it. You'll want to hit the ball just before it goes over the plate. Any later and you'll likely foul it off.

07
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Uppercut Or Not?

Albert Pujols hits a ground ball against the Colorado Rockies on May 28, 2007. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Many young hitters who don't know any better will always end their swing with what's called an uppercut, meaning the bat starts low and ends high. A beginner should always focus on a level swing, because that gives a better chance of making contact. When a hitter becomes more advanced, the uppercut can come back (a little) to add a lifting action to the ball for power. But focus on learning to hit the ball before making any changes to your swing. 

08
of 09

Following Through

Albert Pujols follows through after a swing against the San Diego Padres on May 12, 2007. Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The momentum of the bat, whether you make contact or not, will carry you through the follow-through. If you don't follow through, you won't generate very much power because your swing might actually be slowing down before you make contact. The follow-through is important. If you made contact, get ready to drop the bat and run to first base.

09
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Ready To Run

Albert Pujols runs to first against the Rockies on May 28, 2007. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Hitters just let go of the bat – they don't throw the bat. For one, it's dangerous to throw a bat. Two, it's wasted motion and it will slow you down when you're running to first base.

There's a lot more to hitting, of course. There's hitting to the opposite field, generating more power, hitting behind the runner, etc. But these are the basics.