Last year’s American League Rookie of the Year, Mike Trout has some hitting tips for Little League up-and-comers and aging softball players alike. “Your legs are real important,” Trout, 21, tells ‘Men’s Journal.'” If you’re using all hands up there, it’s not gonna work.”
Hip rotation is critical, he says. Tee drills are good for creating muscle memory: Drive your hip toward the ball and your back knee toward your front ankle. In the “top hand” drill, the batter chokes up with one hand on the bat, around the top of the grip. Drive the knob of the bat straight toward the ball, keeping your hands close to your body. That helps teach a direct, powerful swing. As any Little League coach knows, that can be a difficult concept to grasp for young hitters, many of whom tend to loop the bat through the strike zone using all arms.
Trout, a New Jersey native, was coached by his father (a former Minnesota Twins draft pick) at every level until high school. “Until then, I hit everything to left field,” he says. “I couldn’t hit the ball the other way. Now, I’m completely the opposite. I stay inside the ball.” To hit an outside pitch to right field, a righthanded hitter’s hands must move “inside” (or in front of) the pitch as it crosses the plate, creating a bat angle in which the knob is out in front of the barrel.
Trout says he can’t emphasize healthy eating enough. In professional baseball, “the spread we have after the game is pretty healthy,” but the incessant traveling can create some bad habits. “When we get in late and the only thing open is fast food, it can be tough to maintain a healthy diet,” he admits, though he is a “Famous Fan” for Subway, where presumably the lean meat in the chain’s Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich is better than, say, a Whopper. He does have one advantage on most of his teammates, he notes with a laugh: “Some of the guys who are a little older definitely have to watch themselves a little more than I do,” he says.
Just as any dedicated athlete knows he should eat right, the oldest advice in the book, Trout says, is still the best advice for a hitter: “Keep your head on the ball. You’ve got to hit it first, then look where it goes. People get in trouble when they look for where the ball’s going, and they haven’t even hit it yet.”