Batting Practice: Get the Bunts Down

Bunting is a widely unappreciated, largely unpracticed skill. And it shouldn’t be that way, because a well-placed bunt can be just as important in scoring a run. Furthermore, bunting is a skill that can be easily developed and mastered by anyone who is willing to work at it. You don’t need incredible strength, fast hands, great timing, or other extraordinary skills. In fact, all you need is average hand-eye coordination — which just about every baseball player has.

In batting practice, coaches should demand that players get their bunts down BEFORE they start swinging. For example, insist that a batter execute one well-placed bunt down the third base line, and a second down the first base line, before swinging away. If the batter fails, he must continue until he either gets the job done or he exhausts his BP allotment of pitches. It’s amazing how much batters focus on getting down good bunts when the exercise is eating into their “free swinging” time; a little motivation goes a long way toward skills development.

Further, you can integrate bunting competitions into regular practice time. Place a glove or other marker in an ideal spot down the third base line, and have batters taking turns trying to bunt the ball to exactly the spot. It’s like putting in golf. The batter who hits the spot, or comes closest, receives a reward — such as extra swings in BP or excused from that day’s sprints.

Above-average runners would do well to include a number of extra drag bunts into their batting practice routine. You don’t have to have blinding speed to earn bunt hits — all it takes is good technique, perfect placement, and picking the right time to do it. Don’t believe it? Here’s a real-life example: I’m a 37-year-old, 225-lb catcher with old, slow wheels, yet even I will drop at least 3-4 bunts for hits in a season. Sure, it’s not as heroic as hitting the ball over the fence, but a timely drag bunt — such as when leading off an inning against a tough pitcher — can be exactly the kind of spark that throws the opponent off their game and gets an offense going. Sometimes all a team needs is something to throw the other pitcher’s rhythm off, and a bunt can be just the thing to jar him out of his routine.

So next time you’re in the batting cage, take the bunts seriously. You don’t have to drop down fifty bunts in practice, but you really do need to focus intently on the few that you do. Remember, perfect practice makes perfect.

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