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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.