Jack Mankin coached Little League and Babe Ruth baseball for 15 years. Like many other coaches, he worked hard at giving the kids the quality of coaching that would encourage them to enjoy the game and reach the highest goals their talent would allow. He studied all the books and videos on hitting that he could get my hands on. And he could rehash weight shift and extension batting theories with the best of them. His players were exposed to about every hitting drill imaginable. Over the years he had the pleasure of working with a lot of great kids and a few great athletes. They won state 5 times and went to the nationals 3 times.
But deep down, he knew that the batting techniques he taught really didn't help the ball players that much. Oh sure, they could usually make contact when the team really needed it. And they played their hearts out and scratched for enough runs to make him and the other coaches look good. But for them to reach their personal goals, the major leagues or even college baseball, they needed to have real "pop" in their bat. Here is where Coach Mankin feels that he failed his players. They either had real "pop" or they didn't, and what he taught them had little to do with it.
However, after years of reseach, Jack Mankin began to reject the old Truism that you have to be a Born Hitter to have "pop" in your bat. There was something in a few players batting mechanics allowed them to swing a bat with much greater speed than other good athletes. Jack Mankin spent the last 30 years finding out what that "something" was. He was determined to give coaches the proven facts to teach the mechanics that generate power and bat-speed (and not simply someone's pet theory regarding it).
The study covered nine years and literally thousands of hours. The first two years he spent charting the swings of 185 professional players. He would video tape games shown on television and replay the swings back in frame by frame action. By placing a piece of clear plastic over the screen (long before video analysis equipment), he was able to trace the movement of each part of the body and the bats reaction for each video frame of the swing. From the time the swing was initiated to contact required from 4 to 6 frames depending on the mechanics of the batter.
When Jack Mankin started the study, he hung a sign over his desk. It read "Have no preconceived theory, report only what you observe." To make sure he correctly identified a players swing mechanics, he charted 15 swings (at good pitches to hit) of each player over a several year period. He then devised a system whereby he could identify players according to the characteristics of their mechanics. He used 39 different mechanical characteristics and developed 12 swing classifications that players fit into. It was truly amazing how close the performance stats were for players with the same classification. There was other very interesting finding he made during the research and he will discuss them with you on the website when those subjects arise.
In the next part of the study, Coach Mankin undertook the task of defining the forces acting on the bat that would cause the various reactions he had recorded. These reactions involve a great deal of rather complex physics. His only formal study of physics was those required for his engineering major in college. He spent a considerable amount of time discussing his finding with college physics departments, who Jack cannot thank enough for their help and patience.
To me, one of the most important findings to come from the research was that a player's swing mechanics was far more important in determining batting potential than the player's athletic abilities. I discovered that whenever a hitter went into a batting slump, there would be a notable change in his mechanics and he was just performing according to his new swing classification.
Over the last several years, Jack spent a lot of time developing methods to overcoming old muscle memories (long stride, weight shift and extension) and how to teach the rotational mechanics, a circular hand path and torque, which are used by the great hitter in the game today. He has also focused much of his time on designing batting aids that promote the correct swing mechanics.
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