Dustin Lind Interview

January 8th, 2018

Dustin Lind is a physical therapist in Montana. Dustin played college baseball at Montana State University Billings before injuries ended his career. In addition to physical therapy, Dustin teaches hitting and he has conducted research on hitting. He has also studied numerous Major League hitters. Dustin’s studies have focused on how the body works and moves with regards to the best hitters. Dustin’s passion for hitting has paved a road for training numerous players ranging from different levels from high school to the professional level. Dustin has also created a google drive that anyone can access on his twitter account (@dustinlind). The account has thousands of resources where both players and coaches can take advantage of hitting videos, scientific studies, articles about hitting, and more. Please give Dustin a follow and start learning from one of the best in the business!

When I began exploring the new hitting philosophies focusing on elevating the ball, Dustin was one of the first twitter hitting coaches I found. I have continued to follow him and watch videos from Dustin’s google drive. I cannot thank him enough for the impact his content has had on my swing. When Jonathan and I were brainstorming ideas for Students of the Game, we listed names we could make connections with across baseball to interview. We thought it would be valuable to talk to coaches with a strong social media presence who provide incredible content for players to learn from. We want to interview these individuals to help bridge the gap between the content players see on social media with what coaches are doing in real life. We were incredibly excited to have the opportunity to speak with Dustin. We really appreciate Dustin sharing his knowledge and practices with us!

 

MD: What led you to be so passionate about hitting?

DL: Ever since high school, I was interested in learning about hitting mechanics and how good hitters perform consistently. I was always studying whatever hitting video I could find it seemed like. I was relatively uninvolved in coaching after I finished playing

MD: Clearly as a believer and driver of the flyball revolution what lead you to believing in something that most in mainstream coaching at the time were so dead set against?

DL: I’d say that coaching players to hit fly balls isn’t anything terribly new. Ted Williams wrote about it in The Science of Hitting roughly 40 years ago. There have also been a number of very good hitting coaches teaching this for a number of years. So while I certainly consider myself a believer of the benefits of hitting the ball in the air, I would say my contributions to the game are incredibly small when compared next to these great coaches. What really led me to incorporate these ideas into my training was the data that we were able to pull from sites like Baseball Savant. Being able to plug in a launch angle and see the different offensive metrics associated with that number was very powerful for me, and I realized that much of what I was practicing and teaching at that time wasn’t conducive to driving the ball in the air.

With all this being said, being able to consistently barrel the ball is still a very important skill, even if it means we don’t always get the ball up over an infielder’s head. I got to meet with one of college baseball’s foremost head coaches last year, and he said something to the effect of, “I don’t care if the ball is in the air or on the ground, but it needs to score runs so we can win games at the end of the day.” Sure enough his team won the conference championship on a hard ground ball punched through to the opposite field. He trains his players to crush pitches (and they do), but he also understands at the end of the day, scoring runs is what matters, no matter how you choose to do it. The most effective way to do this is to elevate the baseball, but in the end, you should always take what the defense gives you. Being a well rounded hitter who can accomplish a variety of hitting tasks is incredibly important, with the ability to lift the baseball with some exit velocity being the most important.

MD: What drove you to start researching hitting and create the plethora of resources you’ve made available for hitters?

DL: I asked a group of high school hitters I was working with what they felt the best possible hitting resource would be, and I got a number of responses ranging from training advice to swing clips. I was just starting to realize how individualized hitting development was, and it hit me that each player is going to need an emphasis in a different area. I figured something like this would have to be a website, but I was a graduate student with no money at the time, so Google Drive became the best option since I had the standard 15 GB for free. I started collecting swing videos after seeing a video that Jerry Brewer put out that outlined how to obtain and edit hitting videos. I set to work collecting clips for the drive and organized them by player. The rest is history.

MD: You created a weight bat program that you’ve used on HS, college and professional hitters, can you touch more on the importance of overload/underload training and how hitters can implement it in their training?

DL: Overload/underload training is an incredibly valuable tool in multiple ways. For younger players, it’s a great way to build bat speed. Swinging with the intent to swing fast will always improve bat speed, but doing it with underload and overload implements can provide bigger improvements. For older players, it provides a great way to challenge the central nervous system (CNS). If we think about it from a movement standpoint, the body needs to understand where the bat is in relation to the body, and what the goal is (hitting the ball squarely with the barrel of the bat). Then it has to calculate the incoming trajectory and velocity of the incoming pitch and formulate a plan to move the barrel to meet the ball. This is an incredibly complex process. If we add the extra difficulty of swinging a light or heavy bat, the nervous system has to really work in overdrive to make the motor plan work. So it’s a very good way to lock in mechanical changes.

If players want to incorporate overload/underload training into their hitting practices, I’ve outlined a few ideas in the weighted bat program that I created. It can be accessed at this link:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9T9X_XVNi6MdGtMZnhKMmdjWFU

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of ways to train, but it should give a player an idea of what they should expect with weighted implement training.

MD: Of all the hitters you’ve studied who if you could only recommend watching video of three hitters to learn from who would they be and why?

DL:This is a really difficult question, because I feel that watching most professional hitters has some value to it. If I had to recommend only 3, I’d tell a hitter to pick one player on each end of the movement spectrum (big movements vs. small movements) and their favorite player. For me, I’d look at someone like Josh Donaldson and Paul Goldschmidt, simply because they utilize very different movement patterns to hit the ball. Donaldson is a very free-flowing mover, while Goldschmidt uses really small, tight movements. Both are unreal hitters, and an appreciation of how each gets to the end goal could go a long way to help hitters find their optimal movement pattern.

MD: In your drive you have resources from hitter warm ups, to recovery, to nutrition suggestions. What do you think players neglect the most that could be stunting their development?

DL: I feel that sleep quality is the number 1 biggest thing that athletes (and the general population) can improve upon. That’s our best recovery tool, and most people (myself included) don’t utilize proper “sleep hygiene”. Things like staying off your phone before bed, monitoring fluid and food intake, etc. can all lead to improved sleep quality. If you get better sleep, you’ll recover better and reduce your risk for injury. It’s a simple thing to do, but committing to doing it is really the key. Here’s a great article that outlines some methods for improving your sleep quality.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9T9X_XVNi6MYXd4cVlFQzRKT1k

MD: A lot of the great tools you offer might be difficult for some hitters to understand how would you suggest them navigate your drive of learning materials when it can be a little overwhelming?

DL: I would suggest that they get in touch with me. I try to make myself available on Twitter as much as humanly possible. It’s a little difficulty with my work sometimes, but I try and respond to folks within a day or two if they have questions. I’m more than happy to offer any insights that I may have, and I don’t know the answer, I’ll show you how to find it for yourself.

MD: What studies, if any do you believe are the most important for hitters to know and understand that are apart of your drive?

DL: I feel that this is really context driven for each individual player. If players are underperforming from a strength sense, the strength and conditioning studies are the most important for them. If a player is strong and athletic, but struggles with hitting consistency, more time in the video library is needed. I feel that players need to be honest with themselves and do a thorough evaluation of what they need to do to get better, because it can be done, it just takes work.

MD: What advice would you give to a player whose coach tells them to focus on hitting ground balls and not focusing on elevation?

DL:I would have an open, honest conversation with your coach on why you believe your most effective offensive strategy is hitting the ball in the air. I’d also suggest familiarizing yourself with the data that has been collected on the topic, and sharing this with your coach.

MD: What cheap investments would you suggest players make to maximize their potential?

DL: A roll of athletic tape to put on a bat is a great investment and costs just a few dollars. The benefits from overload and underload training systems are huge, and they don’t have to be expensive.

Plus, there is enough free information out there that is extremely high quality (Jerry Brewer’s YouTube channel and website are great examples) that you don’t have to break the bank to become a great hitter. Most of becoming a great hitter is finding what your weaknesses are and improving them, and baseball is advancing so quickly that smart players can figure out how to be good players without much monetary investment.

MD: We have only scratched the surface on vision training with hitters, where do you believe this field will be in ten years and how much will it help in hitters development?

DL: This is an area of development that I have been very skeptical of. I feel that it is so difficult to recreate all the sensory info that a player has to process during hitting that our transfer of training is not guaranteed. So I have a difficult time spending large amounts of time on vision training when there are so many things to work on.

With that being said, I’ve talked to a number of college coaches who implement vision and pitch recognition strategies into their programs with high success rates. Nobody is (as of yet) able to quantify the gains, but there are some to be had.

What excites me most about vision training is the possibilities that are opening up with virtual reality. I think in the near future (within the next 10 years) that we will more effectively be able to recreate live hitting situations and measure the visual responses to these situations. There is a lab at Stanford that is currently using VR to measure fear by showing subjects what it’s like to swim with great white sharks and walk on high ledges. They use the responses in heart rate, pupil dilation, respiratory rate, etc. to measure how people deal with fear and anxiety. While this research is very important for depression and anxiety, I feel that baseball teams will soon be moving into this realm with their hitters by measuring eye movement, visual acuity, etc. The sky is the limit with regards to this technology in my opinion.

By the way, there was a study published a number of years ago that found many minor league baseball players have vision problems that are not currently diagnosed. Be sure to get your eyes checked before baseball season!

MD: Why do you think PVC Pipes are important for hitters to experiment with and what do you believe are there primary functions to a hitters swing?

DL: PVC pipes are similar to weighted bats. They force the CNS to make real time adjustments to meet a movement goal. However, since PVC pipes are not totally similar to baseball bats, the transfer of training is not guaranteed. I use them, but mostly for feel work. Once a player feels that he needs to feel, I try and recreate it with a bat in his hands. There are other hitting coaches who use them extensively with great success however, so there is not a single way to implement them into your routine. Find what works for you!

MD: What other members of hitting twitter would you suggest following?

DL: There are so many good follows it would take me a few days to list them here. I encourage players to follow anyone who has hitting information, then think critically to determine if their style is something that would benefit you. Beware of folks who want your money, or say that your only chance of having a future in the game is by listening to them. The best way to improve as a hitter is to find what you do well, and to maximize it. I’ve seen players literally do this on their own without seeing a single hitting instructor. It can be done, but you have to think things through.

If you want an extra set of eyes to help you with your hitting journey, I’d suggest reaching out to some of these folks on hitting twitter and engaging them in conversation. If they seem to have interests and ideas that align with yours, explore that relationship further.

MD: What strength exercises would you suggest to focus on in development?

DL: This is another answer that is context driven, but I feel that two things I use with almost every player are some form of deadlift and/or functional carries, and medicine ball throws. Picking up weight and carrying it is a generally good indicator of overall strength, and medicine ball throws are an excellent way to develop power in the rotational plane.

MD: What are you doing to continue to learn to keep making your hitters fulfill their potential?

DL: I’m currently in the middle of a manual therapy certification through the North American Institute of Manual Therapy. These courses are helping me improve my joint assessment and treatment skills. I have plans to become certified through the Titleist Performance Institute in the future, to help me treat rotational athletes such as baseball players more effectively. I constantly search medical and strength and conditioning journals to further my education as well. Human movement is incredibly complex, and feel like I have some much more that I can learn. I think that the learning process will never stop for me, as these fields change in leaps in bounds in a matter of years.

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