In teaching hitting, I often find young players developing an improper hand path where they hit down on the ball. This path results in many ground balls and not as many line drives. I believe there is a misconception as to what the correct hand path should be. I also believe many coaches have a misguided hitting philosophy. Let me explain.
It is a fact that the top hitters in the world do not chop down on the ball. Actually what you will see is not the hands starting the bat but instead the back elbow starting down and the front elbow initially starting upward. The hands are the last thing to be delivered to the ball. Good hitters do not commit their hands until the last possible second so that they can take a pitch if it breaks out of the strike zone. Many young hitters make the mistake of starting the bat improperly with either their hands going down and/or their front shoulder opening.
The second issue I see is that many coaches believe that hitting ground balls is the correct goal. While it is true that at the younger levels, a team that hits a lot of ground balls will probably win a lot of games I just cannot agree with limiting a player to being a ground ball hitter. College coaches want players who have swings that can drive the ball into the outfield (unless of course they are fast kids who are on the left side). By teaching a young player a downward hand path you are creating a muscle memory that will be hard to change in the future. What gets the player more excited – a ground ball or a homerun over the fence? I think we know the answer.
In short, teach players to hit the ball hard up the middle. Promote swing mechanics that lead to line drives off the batting T in practice. Remember, ground balls do not go out of the park.