To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of their batting glove, the executives at Franklin Sports held a celebratory private batting clinic with Mets second baseman, Daniel Murphy, and team batting coach, Dave Hudgens, for a few contest winners and a number of media representatives. This one hour batting session gave viewers a first-hand chance to learn from professional ballplayers in the private facilities they often inhabit.
Team officials greeted the attendees just within the doors of the Hodges entrance. Once inside, the group was guided through the stadium’s hallways to the team’s private batting cage. After a brief introduction, Murphy and Hudgens made their grand entrance.
Daniel Murphy has arguably been one of the Mets best hitters over the past few years, with a career slash line of .288/.332/.420 and a batting average in the top five of team rankings over the last three years.
Dave Hudgens has been the Mets hitting coach since replacing Howard Johnson in 2011. He briefly played professionally in 1983, appearing in six games for the Oakland Athletics. He would go on to work as the hitting coach for the Athletics in 1999, and then again from 2003-2005 before coming to the Mets in 2011.
They began right away, introducing the audience to many key elements of a swing and all the work that goes into maintaining its efficiency. They detailed many of it’s critical components, and touched on the many factors that contribute to a successful at-bat.
“There are certain things that every hitter does that is probably the same. You’ve got to have good balance, you’ve got to have good head position, you’ve got to see the ball well,” Hudgens said.
“That’s the main objective, to take good at bats in the game. That’s why they come in here to do their work,” Hudgens said.
“It all starts long before 7:10,” Murphy said referring to the start time of most night games.
But the work has a reason. The many hours spent within the cage are for the very purpose of locking down mechanics and making them feel almost instinctual.
“When you get to the game, if you trust your swing, hopefully all you have to do is look for the ball,” Murphy said. “And that’s what we’re trying to get to.”
After the introduction and brief preliminary lessons, Murphy transitioned into actual training. Picking up a wooden bat to take some hacks and show onlookers the many steps that go into his swing.
“I really want to make sure I fire my hands right through the ball,” he said.
As he spoke, he would occasionally pause, focusing himself on crushing another ball to the back of the cage, before beginning his speech again. He would describe a mechanic of his swing and then demonstrate it to the audience before him. After each blast, Hudgens would replace the ball and adjust the tee, adding to the lesson and allowing Murphy to focus on the demonstration.
Murphy’s many tips were spoken simply as he attempted to guide the children through the incredibly complex nature of a successful swing.
“Everybody’s swing is going to be different. A swing is your personality. It’s like your DNA, and we all have different DNA.” Murphy said.
“Every hitter is a little bit different, every hitter’s mechanics are a little bit different” followed Hudgens.
Hudgens seated himself behind the L screen and lofted balls gently at Murphy who slammed them towards a section of the cage. The two would pause after every toss and analyze every minor detail of the swing.
“There’s three areas where you’ll see the ball. You’ll see it out of the hand… You gotta see it in the middle area ’cause that’s where these guys will start to see a little bit of spin… and then as you track the ball into the hitting zone,” Hudgens said.
The event concluded with a brief hitting session where the children took swings at soft tosses thrown by Hudgens before a group photo wrapped it all together.
Murphy and Hudgens were knowledgeable and gracious hosts. The two seemed legitimately interested in helping the next generation of ballplayers develop and were excited to be the ones to help. The young Murphy played the part of a relatable role model, while Hudgens sat back as the grizzled veteran, positions they both filled perfectly. At the end of the day, both men did an exemplary job of leading these kids while giving them valuable advice for their future playing careers.