Every baseball player knows these six words from the time he first stepped up to a T. Keep your eye on the ball.
The phrase is one of the most important keys to hitting for average or just hitting, period.
You want to raise your average? Just put the ball into play said University of New Mexico head coach Ray Birmingham.
"You never know where a ball will drop or if it will take a crazy bounce," he said. "It's not easy to get a hit in this game. But it's a lot harder if you don't keep your eye on the ball."
Hitting for average is a crucial tool for young players if they hope to separate themselves from a good high school player to a scholarship recruit at a university.
The best way to improve the tool of hitting for average is to hit to all fields. Most young kids tend to pull everything, a bad habit to have as it leads to flying out and striking out.
"Most bad habits are developed in Little League," Birmingham said. "Kids get used to hitting balls that drop in the outfield. Well, when you get to the higher levels, those balls don't drop."
He said a great tool to help hit to all fields is to have the pitcher in practice stand on the first and third base side while pitching. For a right-handed batter have a pitcher toss you batting practice from the first base line, not the pitcher's mound.
"Try to drive the ball to left field in this drill," Birmingham said. "This will help you get inside the ball and get your hands faster."
Then have the pitcher toss batting practice from the third baseline.
"In this drill try and drive the ball to right field," Birmingham said. "It will help you become a better opposite field hitter."
The mental aspect of improving batting average is just as important as the physical adjustments, University of Texas head coach Augie Garrido said.
"Everyone wants to hit as high (in average) as they possibly can," said Garrido, who has won five national championships. "The best way mentally to get that number higher is to set a goal in your head and work to reach that goal. Sometimes getting two extra hits a week can really boost the average."
Garrido is right. Just check the stats.
Hypothetically, Batter A and Batter B both go to the plate 60 times during a four-week period. If Batter A gets 15 hits his average is a meek .250. If Batter B works to get two more hits a week than Batter A, he will have 23 hits, which calculates to a .383 average. Even if Batter B had just one more hit a week his average would be 66 points higher for a .316.
"Not many people realize how much a difference an infield single here or a bunt single there can help boost your average," Garrido said.
Birmingham said bunting is a lost art that he would like to be back in the picture.
"Kids need to learn how to bunt again," he said. "It will help your batting average by 100 points."
The best way to improve the way to bunt, Birmingham said, is to worry less about the surprise factor and more about the placement of the bunt.
"Everyone always tries to get fancy and surprise people by throwing the bat out there the last minute," he said. "If you want to be a better bunter focus on the location of the bunt and let hard running get you the hit."