The Science Of Hitting

I remember the first time I saw Dave Paetkau hit.

It was at the 2003 Icebreaker – the T-Birds, with Billy Johnston pitching, were on a roll and coasting to a win over the New West Brewers. Just when I thought nobody was going to hit Billy on the day – their shortstop hit a rocket right past Billy’s ear. The next time up he drew a walk.

“Who’s that guy playing short?” I asked Billy near the end of the game. “Dave Paetkau” said Billy, “good hitter” he added, as if it needed any clarification.

After the tourney was over, I found myself in the clubhouse amongst a group of guys listening to Dave expose his theories about hitting.

As a guy who rarely gets at an at-bat, I was pretty impressed but when I heard a couple of Grey Sox players say that they had never learned so much about hitting in such a short time, I realized how advanced and how knowledgeable this guy really is.

Dave Paetkau was a member of Canada’s National team for 8 years. He made the All-Canadian team twice and won the Canadian National Batting Title.

He also won the ISC World Batting Crown and was twice named to the ISC All-World team.

He capped off his fastpitch career with a Gold Medal for Team Canada at the ISF World Championships in 1992 and then had to settle for a Silver Medal in 1996.

The man knows how to hit – and also how to teach hitting!

I visited his training facility in Abbotsford – the Power Zone Academy. It was mid-day, before the steady stream of youngsters would start to flow through the doors and I had some time to ask him a few questions.

“Check out my swing” I said, “what am I doing wrong?”

He had me stop at the point of contact. “You’re belly button isn’t facing the pitcher” he noted “you’re not using your hips”. Sure enough, my trunk was facing more towards first base than towards the pitcher.

“Don’t squish the bug” he added. “You’re squishing the bug with your back foot. Your back foot should go toe down when your weight is transferred to your front foot.

“This is similar to the pitching motion” I noted. “It’s almost identical” he said “think about it – in both motions, you’re propelling an object forward as fast as possible.”

“Don’t move your hands till your front heel lands” he insisted. Now the advice was coming so fast and furious I couldn’t digest it all. He took me over to a video monitor and showed me frame by frame how a swing should look. The subject was baseball’s Chipper Jones. As Chipper’s front foot did the “soft stride”, his head and body moved forward but his hands remained motionless as the front arm straightened. Then the hips, shoulders, arms, and wrists rotated sequentially to give optimum power.

Amazing! All the years I’ve played baseball and softball and not a single coach – or anybody – ever really showed me how to hit.

Paetkau insists the secret to power is the mechanics of the swing rather than pure strength. “I’ve got two thirteen year-old girl students who are going to be hitting home runs over a 200 foot fence” he predicted.

I wouldn’t bet against them.