Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
High-A Affiliate
The Official Site of the Hudson Valley Renegades Hudson Valley Renegades

Q&A: Hitting tips with 2022 hitting coach Rob Benjamin

Get ready for the season with tips from the pros
2022 Renegades Hitting Coach Rob Benjamin shares some tips to be a better hitter this year. (Dave Janosz)
February 2, 2023

The Renegades baseball season is right around the corner, and for thousands of boys and girls across the Hudson Valley that means the beginning of their baseball and softball season. We recently had a chance to sit down with 2022 Renegades Hitting Coach Rob Benjamin to talk about a few

The Renegades baseball season is right around the corner, and for thousands of boys and girls across the Hudson Valley that means the beginning of their baseball and softball season. We recently had a chance to sit down with 2022 Renegades Hitting Coach Rob Benjamin to talk about a few tips for kids (and parents) on how to be a better hitter this season.

Hudson Valley Renegades: What is the best piece of advice that you could give to a kid who is trying to become a better hitter this year?

Rob Benjamin: It's important [for both the kid and parent] to think of getting better as a long term process, and not just “Ok, I need to be great right now.” So just challenging them to play the long game, work hard, because ultimately, it comes down to just putting in some hard work and having fun. Fun is really important. Understand that failure is going to be part of your process, and just go and try to hit the ball as hard as you can try to focus less on mechanics, especially when he or she is playing the game, and not get so wrapped up internally. You go you have fun, just try to hit the ball as hard as you can, just external focus. Just little things like that to simplify their process.

HVR: Why should you focus on hitting the ball as hard as you can instead of mechanics?

RB: Especially at an early age, there's only certain things – especially with younger kids – if you focus so much on mechanics, or just giving them a lot of verbal cues, it will just slow them down, also starts to create doubt. Because if you're asking for two things, say for instance, hey, like, “Okay, hit the ball hard, but I need you to hold your balance.” What's going to happen is just because they want to hold their balance, they're going to slow down. So those two things are going to be very difficult to control as a kid just because the coordination is not there [yet], or the strength. So, and this is what I do with my boys, all I want to see is everything they do on the field just at fast speed, full speed. Just either turning fast, throwing the ball hard, and build up velocity. Build up that that aggression as the foundation, and then as they get older, then you can start to fine tune and bring them back. But a lot of times when you're teaching and preaching mechanics and balance, it just slows them down. They never develop velocity training, they just don't know how to move fast because it was just so focused and wrapped up in mechanics and little things like that. And they become codependent as well, you know, just a lot of focus, or overthinking in the batter's box. Any little thing it's automatic default, “Well, we gotta go fix this. We gotta go fix that.” and they never really take ownership of their development.

HVR: So it’s easier at a younger age to teach the velocity and the speed?

RB: Absolutely, a lot easier. Younger players and older players have different demands, right? The game is different at especially at like the little league or tee ball and coach-pitch level. It's really just one pitch. You got the 11-year-old kid with throws hard and most likely he's just going to dominate, just because kids are not training to hit that and you also bring in the threat of fear of being in the batter's box as an eight-, nine-, 10-year-old and you have a kid who's throwing maybe 65-70 miles per hour. So when you have that threat, right away the player going to have the fear in the batter's box, he's going to slow down. So just making sure that you train that aggression early, you train with confidence in the batter's box. And then ultimately, as they get older, then there starts to be maybe a secondary pitch getting introduced. But velocity is king, at the young age kid through 70 miles per hour, he's going to blow away a lot of kids just because they're swinging with fear, they're not swinging with intent and aggression.

HVR: What are some good habits that a kid can get into to have better at bats this year?

RB: A good habit is observing. I think a lot of kids don't really know how to watch the game, watch the pitcher, watch their teammates hitting, you know? Especially like in the dugout you have kids, playing with the dirt, they're talking to their buddies about TikTok or social media or something, you know, not really focused on the game. So a good habit is, “Okay, let's watch the game and see what's going on.”

When you get on deck, making sure that you're focused on timing. You’re timing up the pitcher, instead of maybe you're talking to your parents on the other side of the fence. Instead of like, being intentional and deliberate with focusing on the pitcher, just little things like that. A lot of players, and I've seen this before, they'll get on deck, and they're trying to work on a mechanic or something that they did with their hitting coach, and they forget about the pitcher. They forget that that person is out there, and pitcher is going to try to throw off your timing. So that's another habit.

And then little things like having a plan when you go out there like okay – What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to hit the ball? – is really important. So having an external goal – hit the ball at a target. If you go up there with that plan, being aggressive early, I think that's really important. It's something that it's not really taught a lot. There's a lot of, I guess, just put the ball in play, don't swing hard, work the count, things that unfortunately, slow players down, get them thinking in the batter's box and create a lot of doubt. So if you have an external plan as a kid, you get into the batter's box, and you're going to hit the first pitch you see as hard as you can. That's it, keep it that simple. And most times they're going to succeed, because the pitcher is trying to throw the first pitch strike. Your other coaches, they say just put it right down the middle first pitch. And unfortunately, a lot of coaches with the hitting side at that level was like, “Hey, take the first pitch,” or you see it right away. I hear it all the time at Little League or travel ball, work to count, take the first pitch. That might be the best one … to be aggressive early, pick a target out in the outfield, and commit to that.

HVR: You mentioned parents a little earlier. What kind of advice or encouragement should parents be giving to kids to help them throughout the season and make sure they're not maybe giving them the wrong kind of advice?

RB: I think support is huge. Whether they’re succeeding or failing, because failure is part of the process. And unfortunately, it’s hard as a parent, because you don’t want to see your child fail on the field. But when a player sees that their parent is encouraging them, regardless of the outcome and they’re focused on: “Hey great hustle. I love the way you hustle after that ball.” “I love the way you backed up your teammate.” “I know you struck out, but I love your aggression in the batter’s box, you look like the intent was there, just keep going.” Instead of, “Why’d you swing at that?” There’s always like, everything’s negative. And of course the player feels it and they start to lose a passion for the game. So it's important that that parents are supportive of the players, of the process and not so caught up on the mistakes or the failure. Maybe a player swings and misses, and right away you got people screaming, “Keep your head in there!” You know, and that's just going to slow the player down because it's just natural physics is the player swinging at full speed and they swing and miss the collision is not there. Their body is just going to continue to rotate. It doesn't necessarily mean the reason they miss is because their head pulled off. So it's important that you're cheering the intent and teaching your player that for every failure there's an opportunity to learn and get better.