“” Youth Hitting: Comparing Wiffle Balls, Other Plyos, and Mini Hitting Plyos

Youth Hitting: Comparing Wiffle Balls, Other Plyos, and Mini Hitting Plyos

| Blog Article, Hitting, Youth Baseball
Reading Time: 7 minutes
Youth hitting

By Chase Glaum, Driveline Academy Assistant Coordinator

Across youth baseball, teams use a variety of hitting implements to get ready to play a game (or six) over a weekend. The key features of a hitting warm-up tool are as follows: 

  1. Won’t damage buildings or hurt people
  2. Is able to withstand a youth swing
  3. Is throwable
  4. Will not travel too far

All these features are important, but only several types of hitting implements get a batted ball result that gives a hitter visual and physical feedback on their swing—in other words, they can both see and feel how they did. 

In the past six months, the two most commonly used hitting implements are wiffle balls and some form of a plyo ball. I have yet to see a youth team use our mini plyos before a game up here in the Pacific Northwest.

Let’s do some comparisons between the three and see which may be right for your team. 

Wiffle Balls as a Warm-up Tool

Wiffle balls are a good warm-up tool because coaches and players can throw them at a variety speeds without worrying about hurting the hitter. Wiffles also don’t travel very far, which helps when playing tournaments that have limited warm-up space. But unlike plyos, wiffle balls don’t give the hitter accurate or viable feedback on bat to ball collision. 

Here is a swing of a 12U player hitting a wiffle ball, which at first appears to be squared up based on the velocity and trajectory of the ball. This is great for confidence boosts (which is important for youth hitters) before the game. However, getting a good feel for where your barrel is at contact and being able to see how you’re striking the ball is even more important.

At first this ball appears to be squared up based on the velocity and trajectory.

So let’s slow down the video…

wiffle ball contact
The hitter is a little bit early and hits the ball on the end of the bat.

When we slow down the video, we can now see that the hitter is a little bit early and hits the ball on the end of the bat. That might not seem like a huge issue, but not knowing if you missed the barrel could be detrimental going into a game, especially if the result of the capped ball looks like a line drive to the hitter.

A round of 6-8 swings like this may leave the hitter thinking their swing is on point, when in reality we just sent the hitter into the game capping balls. You might find yourself saying, “But it was a line drive, that will play in the game.” 

But let’s zoom in on contact…

wiffle ball contact slowed
This is actually a routine ground ball.

This ball is a routine ground ball back to the pitcher, or—if the kid is strong enough—a routine ground ball to shortstop. We want to prepare our hitters for games and get them feeling good about their swings, but we also want to make sure that the implement we use gives them honest feedback.

(I’ll also note that wiffles can be a complete disaster when using them in the Midwest with 25+ mph winds.)

Other Plyos on the Market

There are plenty of hitting plyos on the market right now that produce some type of bat to ball collision feedback for hitters. I have seen a bunch of teams hit plyos pre-game. The most common ones I have seen are TCB plyos and some Amazon ones that are red.

Both of these plyos are pretty heavy, anywhere from 12-16 ounces. Now, we have 12 ounce hitting plyos, but even our strongest hitters are not huge fans of hitting them.

So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to have youth players hit 12 ounce (or heavier) hitting plyos, other than the fact that it checks some of the boxes from above: will not damage buildings or hurt people, must be able to withstand a youth swing, must be throwable (though your arm might be sore after throwing several rounds of these to 12+ hitters), and will not travel too far (if anywhere). 

bad plyo feedback
Heavier hitting plyos have low ball flight, not true to contact, and barely makes it past the L-screen that is about 25 feet away. 

Here is a hitter hitting one of these other plyos (16 ounces) perfectly square. As you can see, the ball has a low ball flight, not true to contact, and barely makes it past the L-screen that is about 25 feet away. 

Again, we want honest feedback for our hitters, especially right before game time.

Also, if you look closely at the barrel you will see the plyo ball actually dictating and manipulating bat path at contact. The ball essentially slows down and redirects the bat. We don’t want to train hitters to anticipate this type of bat to ball collision reaction. 

Bad plyo dictates and manipulates bat path at contact
The plyo ball actually dictates and manipulates bat path at contact.

Driveline Mini Hitting Plyos

In the Driveline Academy we use mini hitting plyos pre-game and at practice. Not only do these check the four boxes above, but they also go far and beyond other hitting implements for preparing youth hitters.

Bad Contact:

Bad contact with a mini hitting plyo

As you can see, this player hits half of the ball, cutting the bottom half and causing it to go three yards. When our coaches see this type of result off the bat, they try to replicate the same toss so the hitter has a chance to correct their bat path.

Having a player self-correct based on poor contact trains them to solve those types of problems in real time when they are in the box in a game.  

Good Contact:

Flush contact with no pancaking

This player hits the ball flush; as you can see, the ball doesn’t look like a pancake coming off the bat. The feel of the plyo hitting the bat and the trajectory of the plyo leaving the bat makes it easier for the player to try and replicate that bat path on the next pitch.

Similar to coaches repeating a pitch on bad contact, coaches will change locations on good contact to give the hitter a new problem to solve. 

Comparing flush contact

Other hitting plyo good contact
Other Plyo
Mini hitting plyo good contact
Mini Plyo

Recap

Youth hitters are going to mishit more pitches than they square up before a game. There are plenty of hitting implements for youth players to use, but as coaches we want to make sure we can prepare them for the game as best as we can by giving them good, honest feedback of what their swing is doing and where the ball is going off their bat. 

Comparing mishits

Whiffle
Other plyo
Mini hitting plyo

Finding ways to continue to develop hitters even during tournaments will both help your team prepare and expedite individual development. Mini plyos allow you to step away from constant cueing and let the mini plyos “do the talking.” 

Working them into a pre-game hitting routine and making them a staple in your practice plans will help, but it can be hard to know how to start. We’ve got you covered with this free, six-week mini hitting plyo program.

Youth hitting

Free Six-Week Mini Hitting Plyo Program

I recommend that you start using this program and adjust where you feel it is necessary according to your hitters’ ages and skill levels. You can email me or DM me on Twitter.

I would love to help you out with any questions around implementing mini hitting plyos into pre-game routines within your organization and to share what we do here at the Academy. 

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