Four big leaguers show how baseball skills translate into big drives and low scores

Four big leaguers show how baseball skills translate into big drives and low scores

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From left to right: Paul O'Neill, Mike Piazza, Ken Griffey Jr. and John Smoltz.
Angus Murray

PAUL O’NEILL
Reds, Yankees
MLB seasons: 17
Career numbers: .288 avg.,
281 home runs, 2,105 hits
All-Star teams: 5
Handicap: 9
Golf talk: “I won the
long-drive competition
at the American Century
Championship in Lake
Tahoe with a 357-yard
bomb. It was fun.”

Get it Right at the Top

The Fault
When I played baseball, I tried to
make a level or slightly descending
swing most of the time. That placed
my left elbow (the right elbow for
righties) in a high, flying position. I
see this frequently in golfers I play
with and it makes it hard to get
the club in a good position on the
downswing. The typical result is
poor impact and weak shots.

The Fix
I always think “fold” at the top of
the backswing to get my left elbow
tucked into the proper position and
keep it from flying too high. When
I do this it’s easy for me to make
a confident downswing because I
know the club will come down on
the proper plane. Try it for yourself
if you’re not making solid contact.

MIKE PIAZZA
Dodgers, Mets, and others.

MLB seasons: 16
Career numbers: .308 avg.,
427 home runs, 2,127 hits
All-Star teams: 12
Handicap: 14
Golf talk: “I once flew the ball into
the hole on a 310-yard dogleg right
par-4. It was easily the best shot
I’ve ever hit in my life.”

Whip it Good

The Fault
I’ve had my clubhead speed
measured when I’m swinging well
and it’s well over the PGA Tour
average. But when I’m not swinging
as well I feel myself trying to hit at
the ball too much, which is a mistake
a lot of amateur players make.

The Fix
Instead of trying to swing the club
down with a strong, hitting motion,
I think about creating a lot of whip
action down into the ball. If you think
about swinging the club fast instead
of trying to hit at the ball you’ll get
a lot more clubhead speed. In the
picture you can see I’ve got a
lot of energy stored up as I approach
impact. That’s the key to distance.

KEN GRIFFEY JR.
Mariners, Reds, White Sox

MLB seasons: 21 (and counting)
Career numbers: .285 avg.,
630 home runs, 2,762 hits
All-Star teams: 13
Handicap: 8
Golf talk: “I didn’t start playing golf
until ’94, when the strike cut the
season short. Never having played as
a kid definitely makes it a challenge.”

Extend to Go Deep

The Fault
Baseball and golf have a lot of things
in common, including the fact that
players in both games love hitting
for power. However, in both sports,
trying to do so strictly with muscle
strength doesn’t work very well.
In fact, I see a lot of guys in both
baseball and golf struggle when
they try to swing with tight arms.

The Fix
My key to going deep on the
course is to take a long, low
backswing that lets me get both
arms fully extended. Folding your
arms too early in the backswing
is a mistake. If you want more
power, think about achieving full
extension on both sides of the ball.
If your arms are tense in either
place you’ll lose speed and power.

JOHN SMOLTZ
Braves, Red Sox, Cardinals

MLB seasons: 21 (and counting)
Career numbers: 213 wins, 154
saves, 3,084 strikeouts, 3.33 ERA
All-Star Teams: 8
Handicap: 0
Golf talk: “I’m serious about trying
to play the Champions Tour. It will
obviously be a huge challenge, but
I don’t have a problem with that.”

Visualize the Target

The Fault
One of the biggest challenges on the
mound, and on the golf course, is
proper aim. We’ve all hit solid shots
that miss the target because our
alignment was poor, which is often
due to a lack of focus.

The Fix
When I’m pitching I always focus
hard on my target before I go into
my windup. I recommend doing the
same thing in your preshot routine.
Lock in on your target before you
assume your setup, and then again
right before you start your swing.
Keep the image clearly in your mind
and you’ll throw strikes every time.


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