Mike Testani Helps Kids Swing With Confidence
Through Baseball Tips and Drills…
The Long Island Based Coach Was An All-Star, All-American Hitter During His Eclectic College Career
As Mike Testani embarks on his career as a private baseball hitting instructor, teaching kids from ages 10-21 the fundamentals of the correct swing, he looks back on his own extraordinary rollercoaster journey as a player, from his halcyon days as a little league star through an extraordinary career at three different colleges where he often hit better than 400.
He is a coach dedicated to helping his players develop their innate skills, their confidence level and ability to overcome setbacks while fostering their overall passion for the game. His ultimate aim: “to put the love of the game back inside of kids and make the game of baseball fun again by making them a better hitter” In doing so, he brings a dynamic history and an impressive array of accolades to each moment of instruction and every correction and adjustment.
In 2005, Testani started his college career at Cleveland State Community College, a top D-1 Junior College in Tennessee. In 2006, he was on the Nassau Community College All-Region 1st team. In 2007, one of his banner college years at Adelphi University, Testani was All-ECC (East Coast Conference) 1st Team, an ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) All-Star, a member of the Northeast Regional All-Tournament Team and the ABCA (American Baseball Coaches Association) All-Northeast Region 1st Team. He was also the ECC (East Coast Conference) Player of the Year, an ACBL (Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League) All-Star Selection and an NCBWA (National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association) All-American.
All those distinctions were made possible by a key moment that changed his entire playing career – and now drives him to excellence as an instructor. That key moment was the use of a hitting instructor along with video analysis to break down and understand my his swing.
Like a lot of former little league standouts daunted by increasingly talented players and higher levels of competition as they continue playing in their teens, Testani realized in high school that everything that had worked for him as a top little leaguer just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
The Queens, New York native, who moved with his family to Long Island in sixth grade, played the first of five years with an elite New York based summer travel team called the Bayside Yankees when he was 14. Though he was good enough from ages 16-18 to play center field on the squad’s A Team with top regional players and from around the country, he was mostly lauded for his defensive skills in centerfield and admits he was lacking as a hitter.
The summer before Testani’s freshman year of college, a player on his team who had been drafted by the New York Yankees in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft recommended a new hitting instructor to Testani. The instructor lived in New Jersey, which was a two hour drive, but the bigger issue was Testani’s skepticism about working with hitting coaches. He had worked with three or four instructors over the years, yet remained at the same level as an average hitter. Motivated by his desire to seek opportunities to play at the college level, he decided to give it a shot.
At this point, with four weeks to go before the first week of classes at most schools, Testani didn’t have a college to go to. His dream of getting a scholarship seemed as if it wasn’t going to happen. But working with this new instructor proved so beneficial, that a couple of weeks later while playing in a tournament down in Georgia, he wound up landing a scholarship to Cleveland State Community College, a top D-1 Junior College.
That instructor’s use of video analysis changed Testani’s playing career and life. He made just a few minor changes to his swing that made a tremendous difference.
“After that lesson was when it started to click,” he says. “I went down to Tennessee, not knowing one person, and started to rake. I took the couple of simple concepts I had learned and ran with them. I had a new approach, swung with a lot more intensity, and had a tremendous amount of confidence in myself and my swing. The difference was, he showed me with video and was able to show and explain to me what I was doing wrong. This was the one thing that was missing for me. I am a very visual person and needed to see it to believe and understand it. It was frustrating listening to some of the best hitting instructors around. They could identify what I was doing wrong and I understood it, but seeing was believing, and now I was able to implement.
“My main flaw was rolling my wrists over and hitting on top of the ball, which led to a tendency to ground out to third based or shortstop a lot,” he adds. “One of the very basic things I now teach is that hitting on top of the ball means you roll the wrist over before you make contact. Now, everyone knows this and I heard it a million times, ‘Don’t roll your wrists,’ but I didn’t know how to stop doing it. Improvements came when I visually saw the bat path I was taking to the ball and where my wrists were when I was making contact. This all made sense when I saw my swing on the video analysis software.”
Because of the difference it made in his swing and his subsequent successful career as a college ballplayer, Testani swears by the use of video analysis in working with his students. Several major breakthroughs can be accomplished by using video. First, the hitter has the ability to go over his mechanics and have a point of reference to go back to whether it is in practice or a game. They can see if there are any major differences between the two and be able to pinpoint exactly what those differences are to change them.
Another key element is, the hitter has the ability to see, first hand, what his swing looks like from the coach’s standpoint. Some hitters may not be able to feel what they are doing wrong, but when they see it with their own eyes, it makes it easier for them to comprehend what is being taught to them. Finally, the hitter has the ability to see what their swing looks like compared to a professional hitter. With the swing analysis software Testani uses, he is able to put side by side comparisons to professional hitters to see where the adjustments need to be made.
The change in Testani’s swing made all the difference in becoming a high average hitter as a centerfielder for Cleveland State and other schools he attended thereafter. Playing his usual position, center field, he hit .365 his freshman year at Cleveland State, and helped his team become ranked in the Division 1 Junior College Top 25. After playing another summer with the Bayside Yankees, he was offered a scholarship to play at Manhattan College in The Bronx. When the coach who played a part in that offer took a job at a different school, due to a time constraint, Testani opted for Nassau Community College, in East Garden City, a local community college, where he hit a whopping .460.
For his junior year, he jumped to Adelphi University, where he hit .406 and won Conference Player of the Year and many other awards. After his stellar junior year, Testani was asked to participate in a couple of workouts with MLB scouts in attendance. Two weeks into his senior season, he suffered a severe injury to his wrist – and the fact that he had tried to play through it, ruined his chances of being drafted by a major league team. So effectively his college career was over. Earning his degree from Adelphi in Sports Management (with a minor in business), he launched his coaching career offering private hitting lessons to 10-21 year olds.
“Essentially, I would sit down with the kids and go over the flaws I noticed in their swing,” Testani says. “After that, it was a matter of watching them swing and analyzing the things they were still doing wrong until they began to correct it. Some impatient kids and parents are under the false impression that everything will change overnight. For me personally, it was a unique process. After watching the video of my swing and having it analyzed, a light bulb went off and I felt like a new hitter over night because of the knowledge I just learned.
But, he says, his swing was far from perfect. “I now knew my major flaw and was given drills on how to fix it,” he adds. “That was when the work really began. The real work began after I made some minor adjustments and felt good at the plate, but that only happened because I had dedicated a long time to correct the other aspects of my swing. Achieving an effective swing takes a lot of behind the scenes work and a lot of repetition to make it flawless. And it was a couple of minor tweaks in my swing that changed my career.
“My experience as a player, and ultimate success as a hitter, has given me an expertise in pinpointing flaws very quickly,” Testani continues. “I feel I can help a lot of kids make the necessary adjustments in ways they can easily understand. I take what they have heard a thousand times, and simplify it using video. I show them what they are doing wrong, explain the right way to do it, and give them some drills to work on at home. Whether a player is in middle school, high school or college, as long as they are willing to listen, learn, and work hard, our relationship will be positive and productive. My time is limited and I can only work with so many kids. As long as they are at a point in their playing career where they’re open to a coach coming in and helping them work on mechanics to achieve their goals, we will be a good fit for each other.”
Testani believes that there are countless benefits of taking private lessons from trained and experienced hitting coaches and that the personal attention is the way to ensure maximum value for the child’s growth as a hitter. Through customized drills and video analysis, his students improve in several key areas. These include: 1) Stance; 2) Load/Separation; 3) Launch or Weight Transfer; 4) Bath Path; 5) Point of Contact; 6) Follow Through. These are the most important parts of a players swing, and doing just one of them wrong could be devastating. Which is why you need to learn from someone who understands the swing and knows how to communicate to a young hitter how to put themselves in the best possible situation to succeed. You need to know that you are working with a hitting instructor that is knowledgeable.
Testani says, “Hitting instructor’s are vital to a child’s success as a hitter. A single technique or drill given by the hitting instructor, whether it is right OR WRONG, can stick with a student for the rest of his life and baseball career.” He adds that “It could be that one thing that propels you to go on and get a college scholarship or play professional baseball, or is simply stays a mediocre player. In today’s high-tech era, kids are easily side tracked with other, more fun and less challenging games and sports. When they go 0-4 a couple of games in a row, they get down and out and feel as if they will never get better, or worse never get a hit. My job is to put the love of the game back inside of you and make the game of baseball fun again by making you a better hitter. As terrible as it feels to go 0-4, it feels 100 times better to get that one hit to end the day 1-5.”
Testani attributes his success as a coach by learning from a hitting instructor through video that showed him what he was doing wrong in his swing. This is the kind of hands on detail he brings to his students now. “My job as an instructor is to give the best advice I can, with the tools that are given to me,” he says. “If I’m not using video analysis, there may be something I miss and just can’t see without breaking down the swing using video. Using video is extremely important in being able to evaluate and make subtle, but necessary changes to a swing. Sometimes you could tell the players something, and they nod their head as if they know what you said. But showing them exactly what you mean is invaluable. It allows the child to learn in a different way. It’s a technology that makes sense to them and doesn’t lie.”