by Matthew de Marte – January 25th, 2018
A few weeks ago I got the chance to hit with Richard Schenck, better known on social media as @Teacherman1986, or just Teacherman on his platform Hitting Illustrated . Schenck is a resident of St. Louis, Missouri. In 1998 he set out on a quest to learn how to help his kids improve as hitters. He felt the coaching they were getting was not sufficient and he did not know enough to have an impact on their swings. Schenck’s way of learning how to help his kids hit was simple: He would teach himself to duplicate the swing of the great Barry Bonds. Schenck believes Bonds possessed the best swing of all time, and for what it is worth I agree with him. So every night he would go in his basement with his computer, a video camera, a bat, and tee. He recorded every swing he took and looked to see how it matched up to Bonds swing.
For years he continued this. Along the way, Schenck would eventually figure out how to duplicate Bonds beautiful swing. What he learned from this I will get to in a bit.
Those who have read my articles on hitting so far and the interview with Dustin Lind can tell I use twitter a lot as a resource to learn about hitting. Last year a friend introduced me to Teacherman. After researching more of his beliefs and teachings, I immediately became a huge fan of his. Schenck has worked with many high-level hitters. His most prominent client is the Yankees Aaron Judge who he began working with last offseason. Schenck has also worked with other MLB and professional hitters. On Twitter in the fall, I saw that Schenck was coming to New York to give a clinic, and I knew I had to attend to see what I could learn from him in person.
When Schenck figured out how to swing like Barry Bonds. Here are some his most significant findings that he shared with us:
1. You Coil Around Your Back Hip: This is a more efficient way to load with your legs. Often when hitters load their legs, they are not loading their back hip. Some coaches like their hitters to sink into their back hip, which also works in my opinion. To ensure you are coiling around your back hip feel this move in your stance:
When your back hip is coiled you should feel tension in your back hip, and the lower back right above that hip. This coiling will allow you to get more power from your legs.
2. Tilt Your Posture To Get On Plane: When you watch major league hitters, rarely do you ever see them stand straight up. When they load or gather or whatever term you want to use to describe that part of the swing, they generally tilt their posture. This tilt of the posture is what Schenck believes gets you on plane. The following video combines the coil I talked about in point one and shows how the coil and tilt should work in unison:
3. SNAP: In my opinion, this is the most important thing that Schenck teaches. The coiling around the back hip and tilting of your posture should create a stretch feeling in your back that creates tension. When you swing, do not lose this stretch. Keep your posture and when you swing everything should snap. What I mean by snap is this: the stretching feeling is an abundance of potential energy that you should immediately be able to transfer into kinetic energy. This creates bat speed and should allow you to see the ball deeper. A snap is an instantaneous burst of energy to begin the swing. This snap should put your bat on a deep and early plane and create bat speed and acceleration early. Carlos Correa is one of my favorite players to watch snap. Watch how quickly he generates bat speed and how it happens so fast:
4. The Swing Lands Your Leg Kick: So this cue for me is more of a feel cue. In the swing, you do not want to lose force and energy at any point. A lot of young hitters have ‘pauses’ in their swings. The pause is a lack of flow and rhythm in the swing. That is where this cue from Schenck comes in. He believes you should begin your swing as your leg is coming down. When watching video you probably will not achieve this, but still, I think it is valuable because of what it makes you feel. It gives a hitter a more rhythmic swing and does not allow the hitter to lose energy due to a pause. The following video shows Rich himself demonstrating this move and the stretch move described in the “Snap” section.
The list above does not nearly describe everything I learned from Teacherman. I do not feel it is my place to write about everything I learned as it is not my place to publish all of Schenck’s teachings. I do believe it is important to share what I believe to be the most important aspects of Schenck’s work that are more known to the public. Some may disagree with his teachings, but after experiencing them for myself and witnessing others experience it, I believe it is important for every player to understand the concept of snapping. I think from what I have learned snapping is something that every hitter can try and incorporate in their swings.
After finding all of these qualities listed above in Barry Bonds swing Schenck started to examine the swings of some of the other great hitters in baseball. While leg kicks, movement, barrel angles, and other qualities of a stance and swing changed, Schenck noticed all elite swings shared these same attributes. From George Brett to Albert Pujols to Evan Longoria, he broke down video for us showing where these qualities took place in each swing, and how each hitter although different in some qualities had swings built on the same foundation.
I got to work with Rich along with numerous other hitters working on the things I listed above. We went through a whole series of drills focused on a particular cue or part of the swing I mentioned above. The constraints these drills provided made it necessary for hitters to snap to have success in each drill. Once again, I do not feel it is my place to share all of Rich’s work, but I do want to share what I saw over the few days I worked with him. Hitters ages 10 to professional players were there. I witnessed every hitter make massive improvements over just a few days. If there is one piece of advice I could give it would be to learn how to snap in your swing. After learning this, I felt like I could cover more of the plate and be able to react later to pitches and still be able to drive them. For me, I felt like it allowed me to get more out of my legs, back, and forearms in the swing.
If you are a hitter here and want to try out some of the stuff I mentioned here is what I would do. First, you must learn how to snap off a tee. It is easiest to adjust the swing when hitting a stationary ball. For drills on how to snap email me separately at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then as you learn, progress into overhand and machine bp. You want to replicate in-game at-bats as much as possible and adding a snap to your swing against velocity will be a great indicator if this style of swing is meant for you.
A lot of great hitters and hitting coaches have used the methods of Teacherman. I would suggest checking out the Baseball PDS Instagram and looking at the drills they have their guys do. Use these drills and apply the principles I stated above to see if you can feel anything new in your swing. Also feel free to reach out to me if you have any further questions.
Having the opportunity to hit with one of the best hitting coaches in the world was an unbelievable learning experience. Richard Schenck’s approach to hitting was incredibly easy to learn and understand, and with the success of his clients like Aaron Judge, it is easy to see his methods can be beneficial when implemented correctly. So try it out. See if you can make your swing SNAP!