Baseball/Softball: A Tight Grip on the Bat Does Not Improve Hitting Effectiveness
Baseball/Softball: A Tight Grip on the Bat Does Not Improve Hitting Effectiveness

Baseball/Softball: A Tight Grip on the Bat Does Not Improve Hitting Effectiveness

Nancy and Randy Ring

Science is a wonderful thing! It can disprove a dad's lifetime of instruction to his kids...for example, when it comes to gripping a baseball bat. For years, many of us believed that a firm grip on the bat at contact would to propel the ball farther.

Not so, says physicist Alan Nathan, from the University of Illinois. In a recently published article in the American Journal of Physics, Nathan reveals new research showing that the grip on the bat during contact with the baseball has no effect on the speed or trajectory of the batted ball. In fact, there is no difference even if the batter takes one hand off the bat at the point of contact.

Reasons
There are several reasons why this is true:

  • At the moment of contact, the batter's hands add very little to the amount of force exerted on the ball. That's because bat speed is generated before contact occurs.
  • The collision between bat and baseball creates a vibrational wave in the bat that affects the speed of the ball leaving the bat. However, by the time the wave works its way down the bat to the hands, the ball has already departed and separated from the bat. This negates any possible effect the hands might have had on the vibrational wave and, ultimately, the speed and trajectory of the batted ball.

Helpful Hints
When teaching the science and art of hitting, let your batters grip the bat with loose hands. You'll often see pro players wiggling their fingers while in their stance. That's because tight muscles are slow muscles, and keeping the grip relaxed reduces tension in the arms and allows the arms to generate more bat speed. The hands will automatically tighten as contact approaches, although - as we have just pointed out - a death grip is not necessary.


References: 1. Chris Fay, "How to Grip a Baseball Bat." eHow, 2007. http://www.ehow.com/how_10084_grip-baseball-bat.html
2. "On Baseball's Opening Day, Physicists Tell Batting Coaches To Get A Grip On Grip Advice," Science Daily, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/03/010330071454.htm


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