December 4 - Miami Marlins’ first baseman and Westfield graduate Justin Bour returned to his former high school yesterday and led a panel of current and former professional players and local coaches in a hitting workshop attended by hundreds of NVTBL’s coaches and players.
Justin was joined by his brother Jason, Joe Rizzo, Michael Katz, Marshall’s coach Aaron Tarr, Centreville’s coach Scott Rowland, Freedom South-Riding’s coach Mark Wrighte and former longtime coach Ron Tugwell.
The panel discussed topics such as incorporating launch angles, swing plane and their mental approach. Here are the key excerpts from what they had to say.
Justin Bour: “You need to understand who you are as a hitter. What I focus on is going to be different than what Dee Gordon is. For me, I don’t go in the cage with my hitting coach and worry about my launch angle. I go in the cage to work on specific things. You can take 50 swings off a tee and not get any better. Or you can go out there and take 10 swings with max focus and work on things and actually get better. I think that is more important than quantity.”
Jason Bour: “If you teach young hitters to get under the ball their barrel is going to drag and that leads to bad contact. For younger guys, launch angle is not as important as getting to the baseball, staying inside the baseball and being short and quick in the zone and focusing on making solid contact. Hitting the corners of the cage and hitting line drives with backspin is what I focused on.”
Rizzo: “I worked a lot off a tee working with Justin and he taught me to take the same swing off the tee as I would in a game. The best thing for you to do is to replicate your swing in a game off the tee. I think it’s more about quality and not necessarily quantity. The last thing you want to do is swing tired because it creates bad habits.”
Katz: “You want to be matching the angle that the ball is coming in from and when we talk swing plane, we want our bat to match the path of the ball. That’s going to allow you to drive balls in the gap. The one thing I do to stay inside the baseball is to aim to hit the baseball off the tee on the inside-half. If I have the target to hit the ball on the inside, my hands are going to be in instead of hitting the outside of the baseball and hitting around it. That helps you get the backspin and carry.”
Tarr: “Launch angle only matters if you hit the ball hard. Hitting a ball with a launch angle from 10 to 25 degrees is considered a line drive and is a hit more times than not.”
Rowland: “If you are ahead in the count, I want our hitters thinking about hitting a double. I’d rather have a hitter take a great swing and miss than hit a weak ground ball. A swing and a miss when you are ahead in the count is not a bad thing.”
Tugwell: “With two strikes, it’s not a mechanical change but a mental adjustment. If put the ball in play with two strikes, the other team might make a mistake.”
Wrighte: “The best drills players can do is working off a tee. Players should focus on moving their feet around the tee. This will allow for players to find their bat path and be able to get to the ball. I also recommend swinging different sized bats to get hitters to feel the barrel getting to the baseball.”
Justin Bour talks about launch angles and what he focuses on in batting practice.
Justin Bour and Michael Katz discuss various tee drills and what they focus on when hitting off a tee.
Joe Rizzo talks about his mindset when he gets behind in the count.
Justin Bour talks about using a tee to practice hitting the ball at different depths.
Michael Katz discusses swing plane and matching the path of the pitch.
Joe Rizzo on his approach and being comfortable with two strikes.
Justin Bour - An All-Met selection from Westfield after setting a program record with 10 home runs in 2006. Bour went on to play three seasons at George Mason, finishing second in program history with 46 home runs. In 2009, Bour was selected in the 25th round by the Chicago Cubs and then signed with the Marlins in 2014. Bour is coming off his best season with the Marlins, setting career-marks in average (.289), hits (109), home runs (25) and RBI (83).
Jason Bour - After graduating from Westfield in 2006, Bour played catcher for two years at George Mason. Bour was selected in the 23rd round by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007 and played two seasons for the Red's Class-A affiliates before signing with the White Sox in 2010. He hit .253 in 307 career games in the minor leagues before getting released following the 2011 season.
Joe Rizzo - Rizzo was the 50th overall pick by the Seattle Mariners in 2016 following a stellar four-year campaign at Oakton, where he has an All-Met selection and the 2015 6A Player of the Year. Rizzo hit .254 in 110 games for the Clinton LumberKings (Class A-Full) this year before getting promoted to the Modesto Nuts (Class A-Advanced). Rizzo was named the MVP of the California League Championship series after going 8-for-17 with one home run and seven RBI as the Nuts claimed their first California League title since 2004.
Michael Katz - Katz was a two-time All-Met selection and was the 2010 WCAC Player of the Year at Bishop O’Connell. After graduating in 2011, Katz played three seasons at William & Mary where he won CAA Player of the Year in 2014. Katz was selected in the ninth round by the New York Mets later that year and hit .219 in 92 games at St. Lucie (Class A-Advanced) in 2016. Katz has since been released by the Mets.