Versatile Slapping at the Collegiate Level: Part 2

Four Slapping Drills to Improve your Technique:

Last week, in part one of my slapping series, I highlighted four different slaps and how they can create versatility in your game. As a slapper, it's on you to create havoc for opposing defenses. If you're already learning how to drag bunt, soft slap, hard slap and power slap, these next four drills will help you refine your skills.

Drag Bunting: Taped Bat Drill

  • Wrap a piece of white athletic or box tape around the end of an old bat, approximately 3 inches from the end of the bat towards the center.
  • Use the tape as a visual of where the ball should make contact with the bat when squaring around to bunt.
  • To make the drill more challenging, try setting up cones about 3-5 ft. from home plate and keep the ball within the marked range.

Key Takeaways:

  • You should focus on making contact at the end of the bat because it is the least reactive zone. As a result, the ball will slow down quicker.
  • As slappers, it is important to make sure the ball doesn’t roll too quickly to a defender. 
  • By doing this drill, you will have a target on your bat to train your eyes and hands to focus on the specific spot utilized to deaden the ball near home plate.

Hard Slap: Contact Point to Extension

  • Alternate hitting the ball and stopping at the contact point and extension. The contact point is at the exact moment the ball hits the bat.
  • You shouldn’t slow down your swing in order to achieve this position.
  • Following the contact point repetition, hit the next ball and finish your swing through extension.
  • When swinging to extension, you should stop with the end of the bat pointed at the pitcher.
Contact Point
Contact Point - Slapping
Extension
Slapping - Extension

Key Takeaways:

  • Switching between these two positions will teach you the hand path needed to punch the ball through the infield.
  • Work on hitting specific holes on the field (5/6 hole, up the middle, etc.) to better your chances of reaching base. 

Power Slap: Heavy Balls to the Back of the Cage

  • This drill can be completed with weighted balls purchased specifically for hitting or any basketballs, soccer balls, or volleyballs that you may have around the house.
  • You can complete this drill off of a tee or off of front toss.
  • Use a front toss screen or an object of similar height to serve as a target for the slapper to aim for, and place the screen at the back of the cage.
  • Focus on hitting the ball at the height of your target by extending your hands through the ball to power it above the infield.  

Key Takeaways:

  • The weighted balls train the slapper’s hands to stay through the ball at contact.
  • If the ball is elevated too high above the target, then you have exceeded the flight at which the ball should travel, which may result in a pop-up. 
  • This drill will help you build core, leg, forearm, and shoulder strength, which are essential to becoming a powerful slapper.
  • You will also learn the muscle memory it takes to elevate the ball to the desired height for a power slap.

Chop Slap: "Chuck it" Drill

  • Use a “ChuckIt” dog toy and tennis balls instead of your normal equipment for this drill.
  • Hold the dog fetcher like you would a bat and use it to bounce the tennis ball on a plastic dot or a piece of tape.
  • You should bounce the ball out in front of home plate during your crossover step.
  • The closer you can make the ball bounce to home plate, the longer it will hang in the air.

Key Takeaways:

  • When chop slapping, make sure your top hand (left hand) is strong while punching the ball into the ground.
  • This motion helps create topspin without completely changing the angle of your bat.
  • When using the dog fetcher you will have to use your wrists to “snap” the ball to release it from its original position; as a result, you will develop bat control and ball placement.

Putting Practice into Play

These are just a couple of my favorite drills for developing different slapping techniques. Don’t be afraid to play around with each different type of slap while you are learning, and get creative with what tools you can find to help you. Figure out which slap or slaps work best for you and run with it. When practicing, challenge yourself to improve your weaknesses while also striving to maintain your strengths.

The Make-up of a Slapper

Within the game of softball, slap hitters are constantly labeled by pre-existing stigmas and stereotypes before they even set foot on the field. If you're a slapper, you may have heard: “You are small, so you must be fast." “You must not have a lot of power." “Slappers only bunt to get on base.” There are far too many mislead comments to keep up with. 

Despite these preconceived notions of what it takes to be a successful slapper,  I have seen exceptions to all of these. As a former collegiate slapper, I loved proving people wrong by consistently showing how many ways a slap hitter can put pressure on the defense. The best part of being a slapper is utilizing various weapons. We have the innate ability to increase our chances of getting on base regardless of the game situation. Slappers are a big part of what makes our sport different from baseball because of the number of ways we can impact the game.

Impacting the Game

As our game continues to grow, slappers must continue developing their skill sets. At the collegiate level, slappers are no longer only considered “small ball” hitters. In fact, there are times when slappers are considered the most impactful player in the lineup. If you want to have a substantial impact on your games as a slapper, learning the different slapping techniques is crucial.

Triple-Threat Slapping Techniques

Imagine trying to play defense against a slapper who can bunt, soft slap, chop, hard slap, and power slap. These slappers cause problems for the defense because they are unpredictable. Where would you play them without getting your head knocked off by something hard? Where would you play them to defend the short game?  Having all these tools in your toolbox makes you nearly unstoppable. 

The Drag Bunt
DRAG 1
Drag Bunt 2

A slap bunt or frequently called a “drag bunt” is the traditional and most commonly used technique. Drag bunting involves separating the hands and bringing the top hand (left) to the beginning of the barrel on the bat. Using this split hand placement is beneficial when attempting to drop a bunt in a specific spot.

Often times, slappers will try to “drag bunt” or pull the ball with them down the first baseline. This placement eliminates the third baseman’s coverage and forces the pitcher or the first baseman to field the ball. If done correctly, the defensive player will have to turn all the way around to make a play. Due to the speed of a slapper, the time it takes the defender to turn allows the slap hitter to reach first safely.

The Hard Slap
Hard Slap 2
Hard Slap RBI

When talking about slap hitting, a distinction needs to be made between hard and power slaps. Although similar in sound, hard slaps consist of driving the ball on the ground through the infield while power slaps are hit in the air. Two of the most common placements for hard slaps are the 5/6 hole, which lies between the third baseman and shortstop. Another desired placement is back up the middle. I have found that if you can learn how to control your bat to position the ball between one of these two holes on the field, then the shortstop will be forced to maintain their true position. This prevents them from cheating one way or another. 

The Power Slap
Power Slap Side
Power Slap Front

Power slaps typically involve at little more force generated from the legs. With this slap, the power is still generated from the ground up, despite making contact with the ball in your crossover step. Just like a normal hitter, it is important to make sure the hand path stays at a consistent level through extension in order to elevate the ball enough to reach the outfield. Typically with the speed of a slapper, hitting the gap with a power slap will usually result in at least a double, possibly a triple.

The Chop Slap
Chop Slap
Chop Slap 2

Chop slaps are specifically unique to slap hitters. With the chop slap, the goal is to bounce as high as possible or as many times as possible before it reaches a defender. The more the slapper can get their barrel on top of the ball, the more elevated the bounce will be. The height and number of bounces extend the time it takes the defensive player to get the ball to first base.  As a result, the slapper has time to reach first safely. 

Becoming a Triple Threat

By learning how to make yourself more versatile, you increase your chances of succeeding at higher levels and ultimately becoming less predictable.  The key to utilizing these slapping techniques is learning the right time to use each one. Slapping is all about reading the defense and seeing how you can get on base to help your team. 

Although learning each slapping technique may be overwhelming, it is important to remember to take it one step at a time. Remember, becoming a great slapper is not going to happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and effort to perfect a new skill. Check back next week for my favorite slapping drills for each slapping technique.