Top 7 Baseball Books on Hitting to Die For: Experiencing Them Should be on Your Bucket List
I felt like Bastian in The Neverending Story looking for baseball books about hitting one fine sunny day when I was 11 years old. The bookstore owner, like Mr. Koreander the Shopkeeper in the movie, quoted:
"The video arcade is down the street. Here we just sell small rectangular objects. They're called books. They require a little effort on your part, and make no bee-bee-bee-bee-beeps. On your way please."
A year prior, I received my first baseball hitting lesson from local North Fresno Batting Range owner Randy Cervelli and started to taste some success. Like a shark sensing blood in the water...from then on, my addiction to baseball swing self-improvement was born.
Coming back to the local Neverending Story bookstore, story...I struggled to find a good baseball book on hitting when I literally stumbled over (it had fallen off the shelf) a little yellow ragged looking used book called "The Making of a Hitter," by Jim Lefebvre.
It's in relative obscurity nowadays, it doesn't even have a cover picture of it on Amazon.com.
What was in that book changed my baseball career forever. I had a more than stellar last year of Little League in the Spring of 1992 and ended up (9 years later) playing Division 1 baseball under now, NCAA Div I Hall of Fame Coach Bob Bennett, and then my last year playing for the current Coach Batesole, who's 2008 team won the College World Series.
Now, was what was in that baseball book the secret to hitting success? Not sure, but the magic inside made me feel like I understood something my competition didn't about the swing and what it takes to be successful. And still to this day, most of the meaty information in Mr. Lefebvre's little yellow book is conveniently left out of today's instruction...except for, yeah you guessed it, on SwingSmarter.com. I'm bringing sexy BACK!!
Like G'mork (the werewolf, pictured above) in The Neverending Story says to Atreyu (the warrior) at their first official meeting...
"Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control...has the power!"
This quote obviously runs deeper and is NOT talking about hitting by any stretch of the imagination, however we can see it's very applicable for our purposes. For that one fateful day back in the Fall of 1991, I felt like I had control over my destiny as a player. Now I want to share that same feeling of control to you with my TOP 7 favorite baseball books on hitting.
Rest assured Bastian, we'll dive right in to these strange rectangular "thingies."
Please note: these baseball books on hitting are arranged, in my opinion, to importance.
1. "The Making of a Hitter," by Jim Lefebvre
This is by far, my favorite book on hitting, yes, even more than Ted Williams's The Science of Hitting. He talks about Centrifugal and Centripetal Force, don't worry about knowing it now, but is critical for understanding whether the swing is rotational or linear...with this know-how, we can better put into practice the 20% of skills netting 80% of results.
2. "Positional Hitting: The Modern Approach to Analyzing and Training Your Baseball Swing, by Jaime Cevallos
I've just started to dig into Jaime's stuff and love it. He uses hitting principals seen through a microscope of old school hitters like Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. Particularly, I love his approach to the "Cushion" and "Impact Zone" parts of the swing. His book, bat (MP30), and/or himself has been featured in Baseball America and ESPN: The Magazine. With his swing expertise and the use of his MP30, he took Ben Zobrist of the Rays in 2007 from 303 plate appearances, 3 home runs and a .259 slugging percentage to 309 plate appearances after working with Jaime, Zobrist hit 17 home runs with a .520 slugging percentage. In 2009, Zobrist won the team MVP award for the Rays, finishing the season with a .297 batting average and 27 home runs (not to mention he was an All-Star that year). The proof is in this baseball books pudding.
3. "The Science of Hitting," by Ted Williams & John Underwood
The Science of Hitting is my second fav, in here The Splendid Splinter reveals insights into the mental part of hitting, which, as he said, is 50% of being successful as a hitter. Might I add, the mental part is the secret to consistency at the plate. He also voices great info on the technique of the swing. I'm not sure I believe in his uppercut philosophy per se, but a modification of it for sure.
4. "You Can Teach Hitting," by Dusty Baker et al.
Dusty Baker, et al. did a great job with helpful drills in this book. And yes, Dusty prescribes to the out-of-sight-out-of-mind "squish the bug" concept of rotating the back foot, and I wholeheartedly agree with it, much to others' disgust. Sure, in an ideal swing, a hitter will get up on his back toe at contact, or even back foot will come slightly off the ground. But try teaching the latter to a 5 year old, good luck. Kids get "Squishing the Bug," this is more important in getting their lower half to rotate through the ball, and later on, the back foot will do what it's suppose to.
5. "Mike Schmidt Study (Youth Version)," by Mike Schmidt & Rob Ellis
This is a fresh new study of hitting, at least, at the time. I like Mike Schmidt's philosophy of looking to drive the ball up the middle because it's easier to adjust to an inside or outside pitch. If we look inside, then it makes adjusting to the outside pitch way too hard. I don't agree with everything he says, but for the most part, it's sound advice.
6. "Hit and Run Baseball," by Rod Delmonico (specifically the hitting chapters)
This book was a pleasant surprise. Rod really knows how to teach the game in a way players can wrap their head around a certain hitting concept. He inserts the 'why' behind a lot of his suggestions. The major concepts I took from Coach Delmonico is how to grip a bat properly and hitting through the three baseballs. He absolutely changed my world in these two areas, especially in jibber-jabber of lining up the door knocking knuckles (not entirely true) and the dominance of purely rotational hitting fanatics (also, not entirely true), Rod's info makes Swing Smarter Sense.
7. "Heads-Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time," by Ken Ravizza & Tom Hanson
This is by far the best book on the mental game of baseball. These guys have a system Control, Plan, and Trust that is unbelievably simple to emulate. I didn't appreciate this book enough when I was introduced to it in High School. I wished to have read it back over in college, but oh well, what I coulda, woulda, shoulda done. With Ted Williams's book and this one, you'll have the majority of tools to succeed at higher levels.
Of course, having a great hitting coach or mentor helps tremendously for feedback, and the beauty of this list is...you shouldn't need anymore baseball books on hitting. With anexception of reading autobio/bio's on famous old timers like Mantle, Ruth, Mays, Williams, Dimaggio, etc. Those books are fantastic as well.
I believe these baseball books on hitting will give you the knowledge in chasing that holy grail of a swing. By limiting your baseball books about hitting to the aforementioned TOP 6, you WILL be ahead of the game. Swing Smarter Bastian!
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