Our Favorite Training Aid For Young Hitters
Our favorite training tool for youth baseball players to improve their hitting is the SKLZ hurricane category 4 hitting station. It is easy to transport and it is the only hitting tool that my son regularly goes out and uses on his own. He loves it, and I love that he can get quality swings on his own time.
We have had ours for 5 years now and it has held up beautifully. This is pretty impressive considering that we also use it at team practice and it is often left setting out in the elements all summer. When the weather turns cold our hurricane hitting machine moves to the basement.
Does Hitting at a station like this actually Benefit a Hitter?
If you have been around baseball long you know the importance of tee work. I have had ten year kids tell me that they hate hitting off of a tee, or even that they are too old for tee work. The notion probably comes from the association with t-ball , which they graduated from at 5 or 6 years old.
Obviously nothing could be further from the truth. Major league players still do tee work everyday. It may seem odd that the best hitters in the world spend so much time hitting a stationary target, but honestly the tee is where you build your swing.
When you think about it though There is nothing magical about a tee. The value is in taking good rips at a stationary target that can easily be adjusted to different heights and replicate pitches in different parts of the strike zone. The hurricane accomplishes this while also eliminating the need to go pick up baseballs. Here is an actual video from SKLZ showing the product in use.
What Does the Hurricane Compare to or Replace?
The best and most direct comparison is the Swing Away Hitting Trainer The Swing Away seems like a great tool that offers the same benefits as the hurricane station. We do not own one of these tools, but I have watched one in use. I have read tons of reviews from both products and been part of multiple online discussions comparing the two products. A solid case can be made either way. If you own or have used a swing away trainer I would love to read your inputs on this comparison in the comments section, so that I can update this post if I have missed any critical points for or against this product.
My choice for which of these great products to recommend came down to three factors:
1. Price. The Hurricane machine is generally a little bit cheaper
2. Set-up. The hurricane has fewer components and seems to be easier to set-up and transport.
3. Durability. Through simplicity of design I believe the hurricane will outlast the swing away. It is heavily built and seems to have fewer potential points of failure.
The last option that I want to mention in terms of stand alone hitting stations is the SKLZ hit-away portable hitting station. This is a similar concept to the Hurricane Hitting Station in that you have a center post with a hitting target that rotates around it when you hit it.
This staion comes in at a good price point and can be helpful for young hitters. I also find it to be more awkward to use. With the Hurricane machine you have a fixed target that you can take your time setting up to and going throuh your hitting routine.
I also rank it a little below the hurricane because of the way the ball is strapped to the post does not seem to be as durable as the hit stick version. I see some issues with durability in the amazon review for this product.
Another comprable hitting tools would be a traditional tee. There are tons of good tees on the market including some with swing training tools built in. Personally we use a Tanner Tee. As I referenced above tees are great hitting tools, but you do have to go pick up the balls after each round.
Another option for hitting practice that does not require you to shag balls is a hit stick. We carry one of these with us at all times. It is essentially the top peice of the hurricane hitting station in a hand held form. They are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to transport. The only negatives are that they require two people to use, and that holding the stick through very many swings is hard on the helpers arm.
Another popoular training aid for hitters is heavy balls like the Total Control Balls. We love heavy balls as a training tool but they do not really fit into the same category as the other options we have listed. While Heavy balls do allow you to work on your swing, and reduce time spent shagging balls they really are not replacing tee work. They are instead another form of soft toss.
How We Use the Hurricane Hitting Station
We have it set up year round either in the carport, the front yard, or during the winter in our basement. I encourage my son to take 50 swings a day with the knowledge that he isn’t going to follow through every single day.
I’ve timed him taking 50 swings at a relaxed pace, and it takes him about 7 minutes. No set-up, no hassle, no help. He can become a better hitter in 7 minutes a day. That is pretty cool.
I know its not a simple as I just made it sound. Taking an extra 50 swings a day doesn’t automatically make you a better hitter. Obviously they need to be quality swings. I think this hitting station encourages this in a couple of different ways.
To begin with I like that the hurricane hitting station gives easily measurable feedback in terms of how well you hit it. If you square up the hit stick with a level swing it will spin. If you don’t it will bounce. This provides an incentive to make good solid contact, because ball players are naturally competitive and want to see how many rotations they can get out of it.
In addition it takes a few seconds for the hit stick to return to a stationary position after each hit. That gives the hitter just enough time to regain their composure and get in position for their next swing without taking so long that it gets frustrating.
Our Hurricane hitting machine is basically set up year round, but it can be disassembled in about two minutes and comes with a carry bag. When transporting it short distances around town I just set it in the back of my truck fully assembled. It also comes with a set of heavy duty stakes for anchoring it when used outside. They work, but most of the time they are not needed because it does not move much at all with normal use.
It has a 4.5 star rating on over 500 reviews on amazon so clearly we are not the only ones who love it.
How We Probably Shouldn’t Use the Hurricane but Do Anyway
Here is a video of my son using it in the front yard. I should probably start with a disclaimer that this isn’t actually how it was designed to be used. You are supposed to leave the bungee straps on it so that it returns to the starting position after every swing. I do not encourage this reckless behavior, and if anyone is injured while repeating it I accept no liability.
What you are watching here is a game he made up with his friends. They really enjoy it and it could actually help him because he wants to become a switch hitter. This video is how he uses it by himself to work on left and right handed hitting.
When it really gets interesting is when we have two boys playing at the same time. I was kind of impressed with the intricacy of the rules they have come up with. It is also fun to watch.
Two players stand on opposite sides and hit it back and forth, with one player hitting left handed and the other player hitting right handed. The head is not allowed to rotate more than once without being hit. if you swing and miss or don’t hit it cleanly enough to get it to return to your partner you are given a strike. Logically whoever gets three strikes first looses. After every 10 consecutive hits the players switch who is hitting right or left handed.
Besides made up contest and winter workouts we also work the hurricane into our team practices. When we do hitting practice it is an easy station for the boys to rotate through that does not require a coach. When we go live at practice or play two-strike work up, the on deck hitters hammer away at it.
I can’t even guess how many hits our hurricane hitting machine has taken over the years, but I can say that we got our money out of it a long time ago which is the number one reason we have chosen it as a recommended product!