Big Z Sports Announces New Batting Figures To Ease Fears, Help Pitchers Master Pitch Location Quickly

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Big Z Sports introduces a series of batting figures to make pitching practice and bullpen sessions more realistic so pitchers can learn the art of pinpoint pitch location.

After several baseball pitching practices with a top-notch pitching instructor, a young Glen Ellyn, Illinois pitcher is told he has a good arm but lacks control. Whose fault is it? Former pitcher and now pitching instructor, Steve Zawrotny, says it is the batter’s fault, or rather the lack of one.

"Pitchers need a batter to fill out the strike zone,” says Zawrotny. “Without one, pitchers can’t really work on pitch location. Coaches and pitchers have to wake up and see what's wrong with working on pitch location with just a catcher." But it’s not easy to find someone to be a batter while a pitcher learns to control a 95 mile-an-hour fastball. So, he created his own trio of batting figures for the task.

Zawrotny and his partner, Jim Haller, are no strangers to baseball. Zawrotny, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, is the author of several baseball training books and the inventor of the Big Z Training Bat to increase a hitter's bat speed. Haller was the Los Angeles Dodgers 1970 first round draft pick. Today, he runs a successful pitching academy and is a pitching consultant to the Lincoln Saltdogs, a minor league baseball team in Lincoln, Nebraska. Over the years, the two found that pitchers gain more confidence and control practicing with a batter standing at the plate.

Not wanting to use a real batter for the task, they tried makeshift items like football blocking-dummies. They even tried retail products like the Bullpen Buddy®, a blow-up doll shaped like a hitter. “We wanted something that gave a realistic view of the batters strike zone and was easy to position. Something that showed the batter's knees, elbows, hands and stance,” said Haller. “Pitchers need these key location points to work on pitch location.”

But, like so many coaches, their efforts ended in frustration.

That’s when they created a sturdy, one-piece batting figure called the Designated Hitter or DH. Major league, college, and high school teams then tested the DH. Teams like: the San Diego Padres and the Rice Owls. The test results showed the DH helped solve the three biggest problems impairing pitchers from mastering pitch location.

Problem #1: Not getting a feel for the entire strike zone. Without a batter, pitchers can only practice getting the ball over the plate. But, they need to work on hitting the high and low points of the strike zone too. Batters have many “holes” in their swings, and winning pitchers routinely hit those spots.

Problem #2: Not being aggressive. According to Haller, when pitchers aren’t aggressive on the hill they tend to aim the ball. When this happens, they take something off the ball and get into trouble. That's why practicing with a batter at the plate helps pitchers build confidence. It teaches them to be more aggressive and helps them take command of the entire strike zone.

Problem #3: Not pitching “in.” The “up and in” pitch is one of the hardest pitches in baseball to hit, yet even harder to throw consistently well. Haller believes that the reason for this is because pitchers practice this pitch without a batter. Also, most pitchers won’t throw a hard, jamming fastball at a coach or teammate standing in the batter’s box.

Remember that young high school pitcher in Glen Ellyn, Illinois? Well, his father decided to bring in the DH. As he explains it, "I just put the DH at the plate in the normal batting position and it changed that wildness. Now, he seldom throws anything over batters’ heads and he actually hits his spots about 60% to 70% of the time. I'm sure the difference is in the focus, which was missing without the DH."

Whatever you call it, pitchers get more out of a practice session throwing repeatedly without fear to a true view of the batter's strike zone. "Pitchers increase their feel for pitch location and thus throw more strikes when they use a batter during pitching practice," says Zawrotny. “Now, with the DH, coaches and pitchers can do just that safely.”

The Designated Hitter is a life-like batting figure capable of switch-hitting. It is used in softball or baseball pitching practice to give a true view of the strike zone. Designed to protect catchers from ricocheting balls and to withstand fastballs in excess of 100mph. To learn more about the DH, visit http://www.pitchingpractice.com/pr1 or call 1-405-373-3253.

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