Over the years, there have been some players who were quite proficient at hitting to the opposite field.
The great ones include: Derek Jeter, Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Tony Oliva and Rod Carew.
Don Mueller, who played in the forties and fifties and who recently died, was known as Mandrake The Magician because of his ability to generate hits to any part of the field.
So what does it really take to hit the ball to the opposite field?
Mark Gola, the author of eight books on hitting and the former hitting coach at Princeton University and Rider College and the current Direct Of Athletic Communications at The College of New Jersey, described five keys to hitting to the opposite field.
1) Commit to it
Most young, talented hitters like to turn on or drive balls to the pull-side. It's where the hardest and longest balls are hit. But the pitch dictates where the ball is hit (with the exception of situational hitting). To hit the ball with authority to the opposite field, a hitter must commit to hitting ball that is located middle-away to the opposite field. 'Wanting' to pull the ball inhibits the hitters' ability to drive the ball the other way.
2) Let the ball get deep
To hit the ball to the opposite field, the hitter must let the ball get deep in the hitting zone. "Let the ball travel" is another commonly used phrase. This allows the batter to hit the ball with strength, maintain balance throughout the swing, and keep the hands in a palm-up, palm-down position at contact. When a hitter recognizes a pitch is away, he can think opposite field all he wants, but if his timing is too early, he will reach extension prematurely. Either the top hand will 'roll' prior to contact and hit a 'rollover groundball' or when he reaches the barrel will dip and pop the ball up weakly to the opposite field. To hit the ball the other way, you have to let it get deep.
3) Minimize hip rotation
A hitter needs to 'quiet' his hips when hitting the ball to the opposite field. They should not fully rotate. To turn on or pull a ball effectively, a hitter must fully rotate his hips. On a pitch over the outer half of the plate, the hips do not turn as much. This enables the hitter to keep the force of his swing on the ball and keep his head down. If the hips fully rotate, the force of the swing will begin to pull away from the ball and take the head with it.
4) Keep the top hand strong
The hitter must keep the top hand strong and keep the barrel of the bat above, and then at the middle of the baseball. Because outside strikes are farther away from the hitter, the tendency is for the top hand to 'lay off' a bit and the barrel slides beneath the middle of the ball. This often garners the description of the hitter "dragging his barrel". The top hand needs to stay strong to deliver the barrel of the bat to the middle of the ball with authority.
5) Finish the swing
A hitter needs to finish his swing when driving the ball to the opposite field. This allows the hitter to maintain bat speed to and through the ball. A mistake hitters make is that they resign themselves to a modified or less aggressive swing when hitting the ball to the opposite field. Yes, there is less time to generate bat speed from the load position to contact since the ball is traveling deeper in the hitting zone. But the objective is to "drive" the ball, not "serve it" the other way. Finishing the swing enables the hitter to maintain bat speed.
Claudio Reilsono, the head baseball coach at Carnegie Mellon, noted that most coaches would say to hit the " inside of the baseball" which I think is a good idea. This mental approach will enable you to bring your hands out in front of your body a bit more and the angle of the bat will be such that you will hit the inner half of the ball and drive it the other way."
"I also think that moving up in the box a little is quite helpful in learning to hit to the opposite field," says Reilsono.
Learning to hit to the opposite field can also help some hitters to break out of a hitting slump. It can also help players to feel more versatile at the plate.
Dr. Granat has developed peak performance programs for top athletes from every sport from around the world. He has appeared in many major media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, USA Today, ESPN,The Chicago Tribune, The CBC and The BBC. Golf Digest named him one of America's Top Mental Gurus. For more tips on hitting get 101 Ways To Break A Hitting Slump. He recently produced a new video called How To Avoid Choking, Get Mentally Tough And Stay In The Zone. These programs are available at http://www.stayinthezone.com. Dr. Granat is available for counseling and for seminars and can be reached at 888 580-ZONE or at email@example.com.