Updated: Jan 31
Tee ball was the first sport my parents signed me up for when I was 5 years old, and it ultimately paved the way to my lifelong passion for the game of baseball. Little did I know how great of an impact being left-handed would have on my playing career when I first picked up a bat many years ago. I have always been a strong left hander, meaning I do everything with my left hand. I chose to pursue baseball and played as a left-handed hitter and outfielder until my final year of Division I college ball in Houston.
If you have an idea of your child’s handedness but are unsure which hand they prefer when playing sports, don’t force them to play one way or another. It’s best to let your child experiment with which side feels the most natural and comfortable for them. Our intent with this article is to help you determine how they should hold a baseball or softball bat and provide some reasons as to why swinging from the left side could provide an advantage in the game of baseball.
How To Hold A Baseball And Softball Bat
Being comfortable when performing athletic movements is perhaps one of the most important factors for setting an athlete up for success in their sport. The actions they perform should feel natural and smooth. When swinging, the player should have two hands on the bat and may choose to finish their swing with just their bottom hand on the bat once contact with the ball has been made. Although some players prefer swinging a bat with a one-handed finish, many opt to keep two hands on the bat for the entirety of the swing.
When I coach young children in baseball and softball, I ask them to pick up a bat and have them hold it with two hands together (one on top of each other).
As a parent, take note of which hand they put on the bottom of the bat (closest to the knob) and which one is on top. They might often switch their grips; however, be aware of common tendencies in the way your child holds the bat.
They may also model their preference based on what they have observed. “This is what we call non-explicit model learning,” says Dr. Marietta Papadatou-Pastou, an expert in handedness from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. “It's not like someone explicitly told you to use your right hand, but you see someone who’s a role model for you, they're modeling this activity and you say this is how it should be done.”
The top hand on the bat is the ‘power hand’ in a baseball and softball swing, and the bottom hand is the 'guide hand' as it leads the way and provides the action in your swing. If your child holds the bat with their left hand on top and right on the bottom, they have a left-handed swing (vice versa for a right-handed swing). Have them take swings from both sides and see which swing looks the fastest. Determining which has the most bat speed is a great way to suggest which side your child should swing from since a quick swing is a good indicator that your child feels comfortable and strong from that side. Also, try having your child hit a soft ball (as opposed to a hard ball) off a tee from both sides of the plate. Pay attention to which side they make the most contact from. That should also give you a clear understanding of which side is their preferred swing.
Advantages Of Swinging Left-Handed In Baseball
Whether your child ends up batting left handed or right handed, there are many outstanding hitters in baseball from both sides of the plate. There are pros and cons to both, however lefties tend to have a slight edge in the batter’s box when it comes to baseball. There are more right-handed batters and pitchers than lefties, which means being left handed is a ‘unique’ skill to have in this sport. According to Lefthanded Baseball, there were 123 left-handed, 213 right-handed and 42 switch hitters at the start of the 2021 Major League Baseball season. So, at the start of that season, the percentage of left-handed hitters in the MLB was 33%, and 44% if you include switch hitters. There were also 112 left-handed and 290 right-handed pitchers.
Left-handed batters face more right-handed matchups making it favorable for the hitter when they go up against an opposite-throwing pitcher in baseball. This is largely because a right-handed curve ball will break towards a left-handed hitter opposed to a left-handed curve ball that breaks away often causing the left-handed hitter to take an off-balanced swing as they lunge at the ball.
Another advantage of having a left-handed batter stance is the fact lefties are closer to first base than right-handed batters. It’s not by much, however a left-handed batter tends to run down the line an average of one- or two-tenths of a second faster than a righty. Plays in both baseball and softball often come down to a matter of inches and that could be the difference between safe or being thrown out at first base.
What Does Being A Switch Hitter Mean In Baseball And Softball?
Many children will experiment using both hands until they determine which will be their dominant one for different activities, a decision usually evident by no later than 7 years old. Some will be strong right or left handed, while others will be somewhere in between. Mixed-handed means they do certain tasks with their left hand, and others with their right.
Ambidexterity is not what many people think. Only 1% of the population is ambidextrous, which means someone is capable of performing a certain task equally well with either hand. Click here for a more detailed explanation.
If your child shows signs of being mixed dominant, which means they may prefer performing different tasks with different hands, they might have potential to learn how to swing from both sides. Players who can bat left and right are called switch hitters and are rare in baseball and softball. However, having the ability to hit from both sides is sometimes seen as an advantage for certain strategical situations in both sports.
Should My Child Bat Left Or Right Handed?
You are now well-equipped with helping your child determine whether they are a left-handed hitter in baseball or softball! Remember these points:
It is important for your child to ultimately decide which swing feels the most comfortable for them. You are certainly there to help and observe; however, it’s best to refrain from forcing your child to swing from one side of the plate if it doesn’t look natural for them.
Being comfortable when performing athletic movements is perhaps one of the most important factors, especially because hitting a baseball or softball is one of the most difficult skills in all of sports.
Although your child may often switch their grip when swinging, be aware of common tendencies in the way they hold the bat. As previously stated, their top hand on the bat should be their “power” hand and the bottom hand is the “guide hand”.
Two of the most important factors when looking at your child’s swing is their bat speed---how fast are they swinging the bat---as well as their ability to make contact---are they making solid and consistent contact with the ball.
Enjoy watching your child play baseball or softball. They are two of the best sports for children!