NETTLETON – While giving hitting lessons, former Major League Baseball scout Scott Nichols wasn’t pleased with what he was seeing from his pupils.
They weren’t loading their hands properly, an ever-so important first step in hitting a baseball.
“I then started to realize that there weren’t a lot of drills designed to get the hands loaded properly,” said Nichols, a former scout for the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals. “So, I drew this thing up one night four years ago.
“A friend of mine then welded this caveman-thing prototype together, and it actually worked.”
Thus, the Lock and Load Swingtrainer was born.
“This is a muscle-memory trainer to help them feel what it is like to get the hands back and to get them through the proper slot and down through the ball,” Nichols said.
The Lock and Load Swingtrainer is portable and can be attached to just about any fence post for use. Shawn Hairald, an area scout who is a contact of Nichols, took down the apparatus in less than two minutes as a fast-approaching thunderstorm was about to hit the Nettleton High baseball field on a recent Tuesday evening.
But before taking it down, Hairald had two college players try out the swingtrainer for the first time. They offered immediate feedback on the device aimed to provide the hitter immediate feedback.
How it works
The first step to directly using the swingtrainer is to slide the mini bat back, keeping the stem part perpendicular to the machine.
Once the hitter gets into the launch position – when a hitter has brought his hands back so that he can now bring the bat forward in an attempt to make contact with the ball – he can now bring the bat down through the strike zone to make contact with the object ball attached to the machine.
In order to make contact with the object ball, the hitter has to “stay inside the ball and behind the ball” when swinging the bat. That is a major “key to hitting a ball square,” says Nichols.
“They weren’t taking their hands back, and they would turn their whole upper body and were turning their shoulders,” he said of his hitting students. “This machine forces you to separate your hands from your upper body, which allows you to generate more bat speed and power to the ball. You load up to generate the most force.
“It keeps the proper bat angle and eliminates that extra upper body rotation that keeps a longer arc to the ball. A shorter arc keeps you short and quick to the ball, and it forces you to stay inside and behind the ball so you can drive through the ball and not around it.
“They (his subjects) hit around it instead of through it.”
Ladarrius Cole, who will be playing at West Alabama next year after spending two seasons at Itawamba Community College, used the swingtrainer for the first time last week, and he said the machine will help him maintain an “inside-out swing.”
If a person drops their back shoulder while using the swingtrainer, then the machine will jam and you can’t make contact with the ball. The same goes if you “fly open with your front hip too soon.” Those are examples of bad habits and flaws the swingtrainer aims to correct.
And when using the device on a regular basis, the results in games are noticeable. Nichols said when hitters square up on a ball, it’s a deadly force.
“Sam Temple at Hinds (Community College) says they’re hitting more balls gap to gap,” Nichols said of the Hinds coach having his players use the swingtrainer.
Channing Walker, who also played at Itawamba Community College the past two seasons and will be playing at Blue Mountain next spring, thinks using Nichols’ device will greatly benefit his hitting.
“It keeps your hands away from your body,” Walker said. “You don’t want your hands inside your body because you lose your follow-through. So, you keep your hands separated from your body.
“It makes you keep your hands going straight back and straight forward, loading straight back and not hooking the bat around and getting the bat wrap or dropping your hands. You’re straight back on a level plane and down through the baseball. I think it will do a very good job.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or
Lock and Load Swingtrainer
– Inventor: Scott Nichols of Richland
– Web site: lockandloadswingtrainer.com
– Price: Advance model costs $319; Youth model is $169
– Available at: Bill Williams Sporting Goods, Tupelo and shop.lockandloadswingtrainer.com
– Endorsed by: Jim Riggleman, Washington Nationals manager and Colby Rasmus, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal