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Batter Up!

Tips for helping your little slugger hit a ball:

  • Choose a bat she can swing easily. Have her take the handle in her dominant hand, and extend her arm, with the bat straight in front of her; she should be able to hold it steady. Metal bats, which are lighter, give more speed and power than wood ones.

  • Start out with a tee; if you're doing the fetching, use plastic Wiffle balls, which won't travel as far as other types.

  • Show the right grip: "Knocking knuckles" (the ones she raps on the door with) lined up, hands together, dominant hand on top, bottom hand just above the knob. Tell her to keep a loose grip until the bat connects with the ball.

  • Teach her proper footwork: Her feet, a bit more than shoulder-width apart, should face the plate, with her knees bent slightly and her weight on the balls of her feet. Have her stand far enough away from the tee to get full extension on her swing over the plate.

  • Encourage her to swing firmly, but not too hard. "Kids try to hit the ball to kingdom come," says Jerry Kasoff, author of Baseball Just for Kids, "but they'll have better control if they don't use all their might." Her arms should unbend with her swing, level, at the same height as the ball. As she swings, the foot closer to the pitcher should step forward.

  • Tell her to keep her eye on the ball when she's ready to receive a pitch (and wearing a batting helmet). She should watch the ball from the time it leaves the pitcher's hand until she connects with it, and start swinging before the ball reaches the plate.