by Ray Demarini

It's all coming together. You step to the plate and your body is finely tuned and ready to hit. You are nice and relaxed and so is your grip on the bat. As you swing into action you exhibit incredible follow through, excellent extension and explosion that could be mistaken for Hiroshima. Now that you've had all season to swing, you feel like you've got it down. But don't stop there.

Every time that you are at the plate sizing up the pitch, swinging the bat around and knocking that ball into oblivion, you are given minor clues as to how your next hit can be improved. Each improvement or piece of knowledge that you add to your arsenal can mean one, maybe two, maybe even five mph to your bat speed. It's those incremental gains that you make to your bat and ball speed that gradually make you a better ball player. And nobody ever knows the limits of their potential. There's always a next step.

One important aspect that can help you to increase your bat speed is the weight of the bat that you use. I am a proponent of using lighter weight bats. The reason? Well, I have studied this on dozens of players and have found that a lighter bat simply allows most folks to power out a consistently faster hit, resulting in improved hits overall. Using myself as an example, I generate about 95 MPH bat speed with a 26-ounce bat. When I switch to a 29-ounce bat, my bat speed doesn't decrease; it stays about the same. So, I know what you're thinking, if you can generate the same bat speed with the heavier tool, use it, right? Doesn't the heavier bat give way to more force behind the ball and thus send it farther? Nope.

The most important part of this equation is the contact that your bat makes with the ball. I want to maintain the fastest possible bat speed, even and especially when my bat is powering the ball back in the direction from which it came. So, if I had 95 mph at the beginning of my swing, the question is-what is my bat speed after the ball has been hit? I've found that with the 26-ounce bat, my bat speed drops to around 56 mph, but with the 29-ounce bat, it drops to 49 mph! In other words, the lighter bat lets me keep my bat speed up throughout the swing, allowing me to CRUSH the ball and send it where it deserves to go.

Now there are those freaks of nature that can successfully keep their bat speed up during the cut. If you are one of those folks that can use a heavier bat and maintain your speed, stick with the heavier tool. But I recommend that you try a lighter bat and see if it works for you. And by trying it, I mean get out and take cuts at the ball 100 times. Don't just hit a few times and quit. Give it enough time so that you can thoroughly evaluate what you are doing.

So note what's going on with the ball, but make sure you are swinging with an efficient and complete follow through. Remember that it's essential that you accelerate through the ball when you swing, (meaning don't give up your swing the second you feel the ball hit the bat). When you make contact with the ball, your exertion should be heightened to its utter maximum. And then sit back, watch the ball soar over the fence and give some thought to how the weight of the bat affected your hit.

So, take the time to learn from your swing and work on those incremental steps so that you can let yourself become the best player that you can be.

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Last Updated: 09/23/2003