There are a ton of hitting aid options on the market to help your player become a better hitter, so much so it’s a little overwhelming. We are going to highlight some of the more popular options for you and break them down by price point and offer our feedback on these hitting aids.
Baseball & Softball Hitting Aids
|SwingRail Hitting Aid||$$|
|Hands Inside Trainer||$$|
|Weighted Hitting Sticks||$$|
|Power Up Wedge||$$$|
|Pro Glider Trainer||$$$|
|Line Drive Pro||$$$|
|Hurricane Swing Trainer||$$$$|
Cheap Hitting Aids
There are a lot of factors that go into becoming a better hitter. The most important is of course proper coaching and instruction. However, another important aspect is using tools to help with our advancement. Also, despite even the best coaching and tools, a player won’t become a better hitter without proper practice and repetition – lots of repetition.
What I’m getting at is none of these tools will instantly make your player the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper if they only use them a handful of times and then go back to old bad habits. We like to tell our players that practice is great and important but it means a lot more if you practice with a purpose.
With that in mind, we want to emphasize that just because a hitting training aid is less expensive definitely does not mean it can’t be really effective when used properly. Here we will highlight some training aids that are less than $50 that can help improve your players hitting.
SwingRail Hitting Aid
If you have a Facebook account and look at anything baseball related you’ve almost certainly seen ads for SwingRail. SwingRail is a tool that helps train hitters to use proper swing mechanics and take the bat in a direct path to the ball. They also claim to be able to increase swing speed up to 5.4 mph.
We have used the SwingRail and have had success with it. We did have a seam tear on ours indicating there could be an issue with durability. The company quickly shipped out replacement parts free of charge, though it didn’t quite go back together the same way and makes it slightly more cumbersome to use now. What we liked is that it offers immediate feedback on quality versus poor swings. We also like it because it was quite effective on dry swings making it pretty easy to use most any place and at anytime, and at $30 it is not too steep a price tag.
H.I.T. Hitting Aid for the Tee
Another inexpensive hitting aid is Hands Inside Trainer, or H.I.T. for short. The H.I.T. is an attachment for a tee that uses a J shape to teach hitters to keep their hands inside on their swing as opposed to casting them out too wide. When using this tool, when swinging properly a hitter hits the ball off the tee normally. When the hitter casts his hands out, he makes contact with the H.I.T. and knows immediately his swing path was incorrect.
The H.I.T. is inexpensive, coming in at $20 on Amazon. It does work better with some tees and not as well with others, though adjustments can be made to help it fit properly with all tees.
Weighted baseballs are also another great hitting aid for hitters. Weighted baseballs teach hitters to swing through the baseball and encourages good hip rotation. Weighted baseballs also help develop stronger wrists and forearms.
There are a number of companies that offer weighted baseballs including Total Control Ball or TCB, Bownet, PRIMED, Powernet, among others. If you decide to try weighted baseballs make sure to get the proper weight, generally between 14 and 16 ounces. A 3 pack of TCB weighted balls goes for about $40 while you can get PRIMED for around $30 per 3 pack, Bownet for $60 for a 6 pack, and Powernet $35-$40 for a 6 pack.
Weighted Hitting Sticks
Focusing on a hitters hand-eye coordination is another good way to help a player become a better hitter. One way to work on this is with the SKLZ or PRIMED weighted training stick. Weighted training sticks are skinny bats with some heft to them that players swing to hit mini plastic wiffle balls. It teaches the hitter to track the ball and also increases their skill as they get better at barreling up small wiffle balls with a small diameter bat. Both companies offer a version in the $25 to $30 range. The SKLZ Power Stick is the heavier of the 2 options.
Swivel Vision Athletic Training Goggles are another intriguing option in the less expensive price range. The goggles limit the hitters vision as they hit thrown or teed balls. They train the hitter to use their optimal field of vision without pulling their head. As a bonus they would work great for fielding work forcing the fielder to keep their head down when fielding ground balls. Swivel Vision goggles can be found for around $25 – $30.
SKLZ is a brand name that offers many hitting aids including their Hit-a-Way, Microball trainer, and their Zip-n-Hit. We have previously reviewed many SKLZ products and you can find that here
Mid Range Price Hitting Aids
Power Up Wedge
The Power Up Wedge is a versatile and useful baseball training aid. It helps train the hitter to hit with a strong back leg while firing the hips, or to land strong with the front side in hitting. It can also be used for throwing and even fielding. The Power Up Wedge runs about $50. To read our full review click here
Line Drive Pro
The Line Drive Pro Swing Trainer is a hitting aid that uses repeated muscle memory to teach the hitter to keep the hands and the barrel of the bat through the zone longer. It teaches the hitter proper swing mechanics with immediate feedback on both good and poor swings. It’s a useful tool that can be used alone by the hitter but does tend to need a little more space to optimize use of this tool.
The price feels a bit high for its plastic build and only 3 tennis balls for the $50 price tag, but it does fit any bat and can be used with just about any tennis ball.
If you’ve watched any MLB network over the years you’ve no doubt seen the commercials for the Momentus Speed Hitter. We have used the Speed Hitter for a few years and have generally seen pretty good results with it. We like that the hitter gets immediate feedback though it can be difficult at times for a younger hitter to tell the difference between a good and bad swing. We also like that the player can use it on their own in any place with enough space to complete a swing without dinging up the walls.
The Speed Hitter uses a sliding ball on a narrow bat to teach the hitter to keep their hands in during the swing as opposed to casting them out. If the hands are cast out then the ball slides early down the bat. It can be tough for a younger hitter to recognize when the ball does hit the end if they are swinging fast. We also like that the speed hitter can be used to train the player to swing faster with more resistance.
The ball can be placed at the end of the bat and held there with an included attachment to create a weighted resistance that builds up the hitters speed and swing strength. Speed Hitter also offers a MAX version now with a heavier ball on the end to create stronger swings. The regular Speed Hitter costs about $60 and the MAX version runs about $70.
The Insider Bat is a unique looking training aid. It teaches proper muscle memory of a good bat path swing while also insuring the hitter’s hands are in the right place and have the correct grip. The Insider Bat’s unique design only allows for the hitter to make contact the proper way and no other. The hitter will make contact using the proper bat path or will miss the ball or barely hit it. Younger players especially will be able to get feedback but also know if it was a good swing or not. The Insider Bat costs about $50.
High End Hitting Aids
Higher end or more expensive hitting aids are generally a fancier way of getting good old tee work in, though with some improvements and specialization. Some of the options below are not much different than getting a decent tee from say Tanner and a bucket of balls and a net and just hitting, which is obviously a great route to go but really won’t be any cheaper than the options once you’re all in on costs.
Some of the options below will still need a bucket of balls and even a net to hit into but some of the options do away with the need for them which would come out less expensive in total.
Back Spin Tee
The Back Spin Tee is a revolutionary tee system that is training hitters to hit the middle and bottom of the baseball to create both the proper launch angle but also create back spin which helps the ball carry farther. It trains the hitter to stay on path with the baseball resulting in more consistent squarely hit baseballs.
The downside of the Back Spin Tee is the cost, it starts at $200 for the regular model and goes all the way up to $400. It would also require a bucket of baseballs and a net to hit into.
The SwingAway MVP Trainer is another batting tee type trainer for hitters. It uses a bounce back style net with a ball attached to bungees. The batter hits the ball and in theory the ball strikes the net and you get to see where the ball hit and where it would have traveled on a field.
The nice thing about the SwingAway is the ball stays attached so no need for a bucket of balls and no need to re-tee after every swing. In our research we’ve found that many players, even older high school players, struggle to make the ball contact the net which reduces the amount of feedback you get from the tool. The SwingAway seems to be not much different than a traditional tee, without having to replace the ball after every swing. With a $200 price tag and some difficulty with transporting it seems like there are better options out there.
Louisville Sluggers Unique Tee
The Louisville Slugger Ultra-Instructoswing tee is another clever and unique take on the traditional batting tee. It uses “good habit” bars to prevent the hitter from chopping, casting, uppercutting, or down-swinging on the ball. These bars stop the bat when making an improper swing and provides immediate feedback.
The tee is also very adjustable allowing for various ball locations and angles of the tee. It does a similar job to the much cheaper H.I.T. tee attachment mentioned earlier though that is an add-on to an existing tee, while the Ultra-Instructoswing is the whole tee system in one. You would still need a bucket of balls and a net though. The price tag of the Ultra-Instructoswing is around $180.
SKLZ Hurricane Swing Trainer
Another all-in-one system is the SKLZ Hurricane Category 4 Swing Trainer. The Hurricane 4 is a batting tee system that doesn’t need a bucket of balls or a net. It uses resistance bands to build up the hitters strength and speed. The batter strikes the ball causing it to twist on its axis and the bands return the ball back to starting position.
The Hurricane 4 would be great for smaller spaces though and even comes with a carrying bag to transport it with to practices or games. It is also highly adjustable for work on both high and low balls and also accommodates players of all sizes. Though not complicated, setup also isn’t as simple as other tools as it needs stakes to hold it in place. Coming in at around $175-$200 its a complete system that will get the job done.
Rapsodo is an expensive hitting aid. It is the top of the line consumer product to measure and track ball flight. We use it at Bat Digest to derive exit speeds. Other’s are using it to complete some bat fitting ideas. Although very expensive, and probably too much so, for individuals, it is another quiver of options for the player looking for every advantage possible in their hitting aids. See our full Rapsodo Hitting Tank review.
The Hitting Aid for You
There are a large number of products on the market and several of them are great options, all depending on what your player needs work on and what you are trying to improve upon. For help with swing path and to prevent casting and chopping there are options as cheap as $25 like the H.I.T. tee attachment or SwingRail to mid range options like the $50 Speed Hitter or Insider Bat all the way up to the more expensive Louisville Slugger Ultra-Instructoswing.
If your player is looking to increase bat speed and strength, options like weighted baseballs, SKLZ Power Stick, or the high end Back Spin Tee and SKLZ Hurricane Category 4 Swing Trainer are all options to consider.
Many of the hitting training aids work on multiple swing needs and with all of them, if used properly and practicing with a purpose you’ll see positive results.
Playing catcher in baseball is demanding both physically and mentally. Thankfully there is equipment out there that can help protect our catchers and keep them on the field longer and with less physical ailments. One such piece of equipment many catchers eventually look into and use is a catcher’s thumb guard. We will go over some of the options for thumb guards and help you decide what may work best for your catcher.
Although each of the below options work, our favorite, and most accessible in terms of price and store locations, is the EvoShield Thumb Guard. If you want something that feels a little more conventional then the All-Star inner protective glove is a nice fit too. Both are available in youth sizes and have a somewhat reasonable price.
See all our ball gear reviews.
Why use a Thumb Guard?
Catchers take a lot of abuse behind the plate and one body part that is particularly prone to injury is their hands. A catcher’s thumb guard is typically a piece of protective material slid over their catching thumb. A catcher’s thumb can be continually pounded by especially hard throwing pitchers but is also in danger of hyper-extension from foul tipped balls driving the thumb backward farther than intended.
Though a catcher won’t normally need a thumb guard until around age 12 and up when pitchers mature more and begin to throw harder it is possible younger catchers may need one to help handle hard throwers. Younger than 12 or 13 won’t see very many foul tipped balls straight back for that to be much of a problem.
EvoShield Thumb Guard
Probably the most common thumb guard you’ll see is the EvoShield thumb protector. One reason being is that they are fairly easy to find both online and big box stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods. Another reason is that they are relatively inexpensive coming in around $20 for one. They are also straight forward and fairly easy to use.
If you are unfamiliar with EvoShield’s long list of respected protective products let me explain briefly how they work. EvoShield protective devices come in a sealed foil package in gel form that once you open you form the device to the players body part they are protecting and it hardens into a protective shell that hardens in about 20 minutes and fits your player well.
While it is not difficult to form the thumb guard to your catcher I do recommend watching EvoShiled’s how to YouTube video for a visual example taking out any of the guess work.
The Catcher’s Thumb is another thumb guard available to catchers though they may only be able to find it online. It uses a plastic like material that is dipped in water to become malleable and then fitted to the thumb. The process is a little more intricate than the EvoShield as it requires making a template of part of your hand, cutting the material, fitting and then trimming the material up for best fit. Once harden it protects well but if you trim too much you may be left without a usable product and out the $35 that it costs.
Endoskel Thumb Guard
The Endoskel is a thumb guard that takes a different approach than the wearable thumb guards. The Endoskel is a aluminum/alloy composite that is covered in foam and rubber for comfort. The Endoskel is a single piece that instead of wrapping around the thumb is slid into the glove’s thumb hole and tied in place. The Endoskel remains in the glove so it removes the risk of the player losing his thumb guard, which we all know is a high probability with younger ball players. The Endoskel is competitively priced at $30.
Other Thumb Guard Options
If you’re looking more to take the sting out of your catcher’s hand from a big heater and not as worried about foul tips there are a few other options to consider. There are a few companies making protective gloves with extra padding specifically for fielding. These gloves are similar to batting gloves but with extra foam in the high impact areas of the hand.
All Star is making a couple options. First they have their D30 protective inner glove styled like a batting glove with extra padding to be worn inside the catcher’s glove. The D30 retails for around $22. They also have their D30 protective glove sponge which is a foam finger that slips over the index finger for protection, though it does nothing for the thumb. It retails for around $10.
There are other companies producing similar protective gloves for wearing inside the catcher’s mitt including Palmguard glove for $30 and an Adidas version that costs $25.
Some companies have seen the need for extra padding in their catcher’s mitts and are producing gloves with extra foam built in the help handle the sting of a good fastball. Rawlings offers a few varieties of mitts with extra padding inside. It can be a little tight to fit an actual thumb guard into the glove also though if more protection is needed.
One very interesting option though is a new 2018 model by Wilson. The Wilson A2000 SuperSkin M2 is a model built with Ivan Rodriguez’s input regarding thumb injury prevention. The M2 is a catcher’s glove with the thumb guard built right into the glove in the form of extra leather padding for both the wrist and thumb. The drawback is the $260 price tag. Though if you are already in the market for a new higher end catcher’s mitt it should be one to consider.
Batting helmet’s were not used consistently until the 1940’s and were not mandatory until 1983. It would be ridiculous, today, for someone to get in the box without a batting helmet on. How long until some type of pitching helmet is required, too? We hope soon. Such a requirement would force major vendors and their R&D teams to produce low cost and legit options. At a minimum, we would love to see a more concerted effort by Little League to require headgear on the mound. Sadly, we think it will take a catastrophe at the LLWS for them to make a move.
There are some legit options for youth pitcher protective headgear. Here are three pitching helmet’s worth your consideration.
SST Headguard Protection
Although we think these are overpriced, we like the design as much as anything we’ve seen in the space. Launched in 2014, the SST is a device made of light, carbon fiber material that inserts into the sweat liner of your baseball hat. They claim more than a few MLB pitchers have used these. The device is designed to protect the crown of the head, forehead region, and above the ear. The design of the SST headguard allows for absorption and redistribution of the energy that is created on impact.
SST is a company based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Matt Meier, the founder of SST experienced being knocked out in a baseball game as a youth and kept in his mind that he needed to come up with a solution to protect pitchers during the game.
The headguards come in different sizes based on the player’s head and hat size. The protective devices are available in single-sided options for RHP or LHP, or you can also purchase the dual-sided options for the best overall chance of protection. This device does push the top and sides of the hat out a little, so you will want to watch out if your hat has a low crown. Multiple players have worn this device on my team last year with success. As well, at least a dozen MLB pitchers have claimed to wear the piece under their hat.
Baseball Cap Liner
The Ball Cap Liner is another option that I found for protecting a player’s head during the game. Backed by former Major League Baseball player, Cliff Floyd, the Baseball Cap Liner comes in two unique styles. The base device front and side head piece that has an adjustable strap on the back to customize to your player’s head size. The other option for the device includes a section that protrudes down and protects the temples on the player. Please note that the website does recommend that to use this device, the player have an adjustable hat or wear a hat that is 1 to 2 sizes larger than normal.
In July of 2016, the Stoneham Little League in Massachusetts made it mandatory for the pitchers during games to wear the Ball Cap Liner product in the 2017 season. I checked on the website for the little league, but could not find any additional information if that will continue in the 2018 season or not. Needless to say, you can see that player safety is becoming a larger issue today and communities are making strives to protect their players.
Unequal Dome Hat Insert
Unequal is a company that makes multiple types of athletic protective devices. The product made for baseball caps is called the Unequal Dome. The dome is made of military grade composite materials, that like the other options, reduces the acceleration of the ball on impact, while dispersing force. This device fits inside the baseball cap and is totally unseen. The device is positioned into your players hat and then cut to ensure a proper fit. This looks like a great device, but the only down point is that you must cut the device to fit inside your player’s hat.
Once your player’s head and hat size grows, I am not sure how the device will fit in the larger hat.
Protection is Your Choice…
Overall, the choice is yours if you want to give additional protection to your player. All three of these devices appear to add some level of protection that some parents may want when their player is on the field. We cannot guarantee the level of protection any of these devices will provide, so be sure to review the manufacturer’s websites to get the most detail and make the best decision. All of these type of devices do take a little getting used to, so there may be an initial rejection by your child due to it being “uncomfortable”, “awkward”, “too warm”, but give it time.
Pitching is Becoming a Dangerous Position in Baseball
Exit speed of a baseball – a big question today when looking at a hitter crushing the ball. Major League baseball player Aaron Judge recorded an exit velocity in 2017 of 121.1 miles per hour. These are awe-inspiring numbers when looking at the offensive number of a player. A batter goes to the plate wearing a helmet, elbow guards, shin and foot guards and whatever other pieces of body armor they choose to protect themselves. As a pitcher goes through his pitching motion, the defense prepares themselves, gets into proper position, and move to the location of the ball being hit.
There eyes are focused on the batter; they never take their eyes off the batter. But what about the pitcher? A pitcher is less than 60 feet away from the ball being launched back at them at incredible speeds. Usually finishing their follow-through, the pitcher’s body is in a vulnerable position, no gear other than their glove and jersey. You have watched many videos on either the MLB network, Sports Center, or Youtube of pitchers taking the brunt of a line drive right back at them.
I am sure those unfortunate events leave a mark… but what about the times where the ball launches back and hits the pitcher in the head? Trauma caused by a baseball to the head at any speed is a dangerous situation. Mind you that the examples given above are from MLB players who has been groomed from an early age to be the best at what they do. The pitcher has the perfect form and quick reflexes as they have been pitching from a youthful age, allowing them to snag or deflect baseballs with ease.
When someone is looking for a bat, what is a question that is ALWAYS asked, “Is this bat hot?”, “What is the hottest bat out?”. What does that mean for youth pitchers? Most of the youth players today are using bats made of composite or alloy materials, (see our review of composite vs. alloy vs. wood) specially tuned to launch the baseball quicker than a hit off of a wood bat. This puts our youth pitchers in a possible tough situation – but cannot be avoided because it is, after all, the way baseball is designed. Unless, of course, they get a pitcher’s helmet.
After hours and seasons of use we report on the three best baseball coaching apps available. We really think these are must have apps for any coach of baseball and softball players. Those running competitive teams from 7u to 18u should give them a try if they have not already.
How do you calculate ERA again? Who is leading my team in BA/RISP (Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position)? What was Johnny’s dad’s phone number again? When and where do we play the Hillsdale Cardinals this year? What exercises should my pitchers be completing during the off-season? What is the pitch count this week? Who should I be most concerned about for rotator cuff issues?
Best Baseball Coaching Apps
|3||USA Mobile Coach||Practice Efficacy||Here|
Wow, that’s a lot of questions. Some of the answers might be easy if you are a seasoned coach. Others will take time, a spreadsheet or a piece of paper along with 10-30 minutes to calculate the findings. Why spend time manually doing things for you and your baseball team when it can all be automated with apps?Technology is here to stay and so are some really great apps that will help you manage your team easier. You can focus on what’s important: actually coaching the game.
Below is a review of the apps that I have used over the past 3 years. These have made a difference in the way the coaching staff communicates, manages the game, and trains our players.
Game Changer | Best Scorebook App
There is nothing smoother than being able to pull our your phone or tablet and keep score of a baseball game. Today, we look into the apps that make the old paper scoring book a thing of the past. Spreadsheets and paper stacks are gone. No more mathematical errors. No more questions from the parents as to what Little Johnny’s average is this week. The best part is that you, as coach, can take total control of your team. The best decisioins are now made with data even at the lowest levels of the sport.
Game Changer is part of the DICK’s Team Sports HQ suite of digital youth sports apps. Game Changer does baseball and softball. Below only focuses on the benefits of the app in terms of using it to replace the normal paper scorebook. (See the Game Changer website for other things they do).
One key to Game Changer is that it is free to download and use (both iOS and Android)! The base functionality can be summed up into three categories:
- keeping score of games
- managing your player’s stats throughout the season and
- delivering the ability to broadcast your games live to the “team community”.
Keeping Score of Game Electronically
This is year #3 that I am using Game Changer to keep the scorebook for games. Each year, you can carry over the players and data from a previous year’s team. Once you enter the team into the app, you will only have to set the lineup and positions when it comes game time. A new feature this year includes the ability to pull in the opposing team’s lineup if they use GC to keep score too. This is a huge time saver.
Controlling the scoring of the game is very easy once you complete the practice portion of the app. It is very intuitive. It directs you to make the right and complete choice to tell the whole story of the play. For example: Ball In Play – Hard Ground Ball – Single – To the Left Fielder. There is a learning curve. During the first game or two you will always be a little behind. But, once you are a week or so in, it becomes second nature. There have been many times I have been coaching the bases and was easily able to keep score and track the game without any issue.
Managing Player Stats
Two of the greatest features I feel with Game Changer are:
- Stats section
The stats section keeps just about every stat collected from the games played. You can see how well your players hits with a certain count, how clutch your batters are with BA/RISP (Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position), plate appearances where the hitter had over 6 pitches, the list is endless! In the end, it allows you to make the best decision when it comes game time.
- Spray chart
Another really cool part of the app is that it tracks both the spray charts (where the ball lands when it is hit) of both your players and the opponents. The tracking of the opponents spray chart is awesome for the teams that you play 2-3 times a year. #24 Bob Turner has 5 hits against us and he always hits it to opposite field – you might want to employ a shift to cover against his tendency. You can also see where your #5 hitter puts the ball on a consistent basis. Should you call the hit and run with someone slower on second? Probably not, because your #5 hitter hits 75% of his hits between SS and 3B. It makes decisions based on data, one item that seems to rule sports in today’s world. Below are a few real world samples from our previous season.
Broadcasting Games Live
One very cool feature that families love with Game Changer is the broadcast feature. Parents and family can join the teams “community” via finding the team online within the application itself or via email invite. Once they are part of the community, the games are able to be followed real time as the stats are taken.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not a YouTube video livestream in 4K where you can see the sweat dripping off the pitcher’s forehead. It is a very simple interface where you can see player name and play (it kind of reminds me of a 1980’s computer game). This simple, yet super effective way of allowing parents and family members follow the game has been a real “game changer” for us in the past years. It has also kept the dugout a sacred place as we don’t have people coming up asking us what just happened with the last play or what the score is. Game Changer is there, always up to date, and as accurate as your scorekeeper’s fingers allow it to be.
TeamSnap | Team Scheduling, Roster Management and Communication App
When you select a player to be on your team, you also select their parents. One of the biggest complaints I hear from other parents (outside of our team of course) is the poor or lack of communication between the coaching staff and the parents themselves. Changes to schedules, tournament updates, practice cancellations due to weather, unsure of an away game field address – all can lead to frustration from a parent. Proper communication channels are key to make the parent/coach relationship crisp and a non-issue throughout the season.
TeamSnap is free app that you can use to solve all the problems above. The app can be also be broken into three key sections: player/parent information, master scheduling tool, and communication. TeamSnap has different levels of plans and pricing based on functionality, but for this post I am only going to focus on the free version (which I assume the majority of users will utilize). The TeamSnap application is available for iOS, Android, as well as a full blown webpage where you can do alot of the initial information entering and configuration. After the initial load is complete, you can control and update very easily from the app itself.
See the Team Snap website.
I remember years ago when I was playing little league, the coach had a clipboard with contact numbers on it. Back in that time, people had one phone number, no email, no mobile phone, and certainly no email. Communication was easy.
Enter the year 2018.
Parents have 5 ways to contact them, kids come from split families, and phone numbers/contact information can change on a monthly basis. This is one of the main reasons why I love TeamSnap. When you enroll the player along with an email for their parent, all the responsibility is shifted to get the information entered. Parents usually jump onboard rather quickly when you make the edict early in the season that this is the only way you will be communicating changes once the season starts. Once all the information is loaded into the system (by the parents), you simply send out a blast email via TeamSnap and it sends to the parents preferred mode of communication. More on that in the next section. Having all the information at your finger tips makes it very easy to get a hold of a parent if a player is injured or feels ill during a practice.
Master Schedule Tool
To me, there are two major events during the year around setting your baseball schedule (especially in a travel baseball environment) –
- Making your initial schedule in early to mid March, then
- Making constant changes to it from Opening Day until your season ends in July.
I know when we have our scheduling meeting for our league, it feels like a speed dating event. You are looking for 15 teams out of 26 that you are supposed to schedule with. Once you get those locked in, the emails start coming in… can we change our date… can we move the game earlier, the list goes on and on! It got to be quite painful three years ago when we actually handed out the schedule on paper to the parents. Then the next week we had to hand out the schedule again because it had changed.
Enter TeamSnap to save the day.
We do not hand out paper schedules anymore, we just direct the parents to the app. When changes are made to the schedule, they are notified of the change.
The scheduling tool within TeamSnap contains information such as date and time for the game, along with location/address of the field (connected to a map application if you use one), and most important, which uniform to wear. Our team has quite the variety of uniform combinations that can be worn, so it is very easy to update the week’s games with the proper uniform choices, also allowing for the parents to know their laundry schedule. Once again, when changes are made, there is a notification sent out to the parents.
Communication Tools for Baseball Teams
I have mentioned communication in both sections above, after all, it is the most important part of a successful relationship… we are still talking baseball by the way. The one portion of TeamSnap I have not touched upon is the Messages feature. This will allow anyone who is part of the team to send a direct message to be viewed by everyone.
Many times we have used this feature to say there is construction on the way to the away game, bring extra clothes as it is very windy and cool at the field, along with in-game messages. We had an instance last year where a player from the opposing team was injured and we ended up in a scrimmage where one of our players played RF for them. A notification was sent to parents as the events occurred and there was no confusion and things went off without a barrage of people asking what is going on at the dugout fence.
Practice Planning App | Practice Like the Pros
For the seasoned coach, coming up with drills is a piece of cake. You:
- have worked with youth for years and you know what areas need to be worked on, what drills work and those that do not.
- have an idea of drill progression and what the building blocks are to lead up to a proper way to field a baseball.
- understand how to work an arm to strengthen it properly. Now imagine you are a first time coach of a 9u travel team… what do you do? I see this posted so many times in forums or groups – “What are the best drills during practice for (insert baseball lingo here).” Well folks, I have an app for that!
USA Baseball Mobile App
The USA Baseball Mobile App is something that I have used for a year or so. The app is laid out into specific sections: Practice plans, drills, and strength/ conditioning. Each section includes all the information you would need to successfully plan and execute on a baseball practice for most age groups.
The section of the app called Practice Plans is a deep library of plans that can be used in their entirety or partially to give the maximized practice environment for your players. For example, there is one practice plan called “1 Hour Pitching Workout”. Within this workout, there are segments broken down into individual activities to ensure a proper and correctly progressed pitching practice. You have access to many videos and a 1-2 page document that explains the drill in its entirety.
If you don’t need an entire practice plan, but you want to look into a different drill other than those in your coaching bag, you can look in the Drills section of the app. Broken down into very easy to access sections and filters, your search will be very simple. You can search by skill level (easy to hard) or skill set (infield, outfield, pitching, catching, hitting, pitching or even bunting).
This is a great section as you can find what you are looking for quickly and get all the information as if it was listed in the larger practice plan. This section also includes a time, so when the drill says five minutes, you can just click start and it will let you know when you have hit the time limit. This is a great section for the new coach who doesn’t want to do too complex of drills and really make his players discourage due to ability level of the player vs. ability needed to complete the drill successfully.
One of the key aspects of preparing a player during the off-season, pre-season, and during the season is strength training and conditioning. Proper drills will focus on developing strength during the off-season, while not causing undue strain on the player’s body.
Proper conditioning techniques will prepare the player for the long haul of the season. Some coaches think running till they drop is the answer. Lifting weights might not fit the bill for all. With the USA Baseball Mobile app, you will have the option of multiples of strength and conditioning exercises that will focus on particular body systems that are important to a player, their current season, and seasons to come.
Just in closing, this is not an exhaustive list of apps that you can use as a coach. There are MANY other phone/tablet apps that can be used. Many are great or possibly better than those listed above. I wrote this posting based on personal experience that the apps above really made a difference in the way the team was managed year-round. Make the game easier to manage, get an app for that!
Miss a baseball or softball app you love? Tell us about it in the comments below.
In a search for useful softball backpacks we searched many, many stores. Stores had two or three in stock while the internet had whatever you want. Yet getting a good feel in terms of material and durability is difficult online. So, I took a look at 9 different backpacks from three different companies and compared them all. I do know that there are many other companies that produce backpack but I wanted to keep these softball backpacks in short review and, hopefully, useful to you.
This goes well with our Best Softball Bat Bag Reviews.
Don’t confuse this with the idea of a batpack. The batpack, as some refer to it, is a set of bats for sale together.
Best Softball & Baseabll Backpacks
Looking at all of the backpacks and what they offer in ways of material and features, I would recommend two different bags. My recommendations are made off durability and features:
- Five Tool by Easton for all the room and features that it offers,
- Merica Voodoo by DeMarini based off what you get for such a great price.
Backpack vs Bat Bag
There are a ton of terms out there to describe what you are looking for and no real unified sense on what stuff is called. For this review, I use the word softball backpack to mean, just that, a backpack that is meant for softball gear.
Elsewhere we discuss softball bat bags and those include roller type bags that can carry a ton more gear but are more difficult to maneuver than a backpack.
With this backpack you can do it all on the field, it is comfortable in league or on the road to a tourney. Hold everything you need and then some. But it isn’t cheap, that is for sure.
- MSRP $129.99
- Interior shelf for equipment storage
- Four Side pockets for convenient storage
- Internal mesh for those personal items
- Felt lined pocket to protect those valuables
- Padded shoulder and back panel for comfort.
- Holds up to four bats
Hybrid Backpack Duffel
This bag is good for all sports. It can be either a duffle or a backpack witch ever works for you.
- MSRP $ 99.99
- Durable Tarpaulin exterior
- All-New rubberized pullers, and updated fence hooks
- Large main compartment
- Felt line pockets for those valuable
- Vented main compartment to let the smell out
- Separate helmet and cleat compartment.
- Has two side bat compartments
This bag is designed specifically for the female athlete
- MSRP $ 79.99
- Padded straps specifically for female shoulders
- Vented shoe compartment
- Fence hooks
- Two side bat sleeves
Merica Voodoo Backpack
- MSRP $ 59.99
- Large main compartment to fit all the gear for the game
- Neoprene bay sleeve
- Fleece lined cell phone pocket
- Removable panel for customization
- Fence hook
- Waterproof base
- Padded shoulder strap
Voodoo Rebirth Backpack
- MSRP $ 59.99
- Large main compartment to fit helmets and all other gear
- Molded barrel lock bat sleeve
- Fleece lined phone and valuables pocket
- J Fence hook
- Composite treated waterproof base.
- Removable panel for customization
- MSRP $ 49.99
- Large main compartment for helmets and other gear
- Mesh bat sleeve
- Vented shoe compartment
- Removable decoration panel
- Integrated fence hook
- Padded shoulder pads
Prime Stick Pack
- MSRP $99
- Large main compartment
- Bat sleeves for up to four bats
- Interior shelf with pockets
- Fence hook
- Padded shoulders
- Customizable area for you name and number.
Select Stick Pack
- MSRP $59.99
- Main compartment
- Bat sleeves for two bats
- Locker style main compartment
- Fleece valuable pocket
- Padded shoulders
- Fence Hooks
- Front Load handles.
- Multiple colors
Series 5 Stick Pack
- MSRP $39.99
- Main compartment for helmets, mask and glove.
- Mesh bat sleeve for up to two bats
- Front pocket for shoes and gear
- Fence hook
- Padded Shoulders
The Blast Vision App is software that uses your phone’s camera to plot the distance, speed and launch angles of your baseball and softball tee hits. Aggregating this data at your finger tips for immediate feedback sufficiency justifies the nominal price. We found the data to estimate ball exit speeds 8 to 10 miles per hour faster than MUCH more expensive systems like HitTrax. Despite that, we think the data useful and repeatable enough to measure hitter progress, success and simply increase the fun in hitting from a tee.
Get the Blast Motion App on the Apple Store.
Rapsodo vs Blast Vision App: Bat Testing
Just Bat Reviews uses Rapsodo in our exit speed testing. Rapsodo is considerably more expensive, but also allows us to track bat performance from the impact of a pitch. Ball flight metrics from a tee, although useful for hitter feedback and progress tracking, fall short of useful bat comparison analysis especially when considering multiple bats across multiple hitters across multiple days of work. In other words, the Blast Vision is a useful tool for what it is, but a robust bat exit speed tester it is not.
How Blast Vision Works
Blast Vision uses your iPhone or iPad’s camera to measure and track the ball flight off the tee. The device (iPhone or iPad) is set up parallel to the player and tee about 3-4 feet in front of and about 6-12 feet away with the ball lined up at one end of the screen. Hit record, tell it how far away it is from the tee and you’re ready to go. It will record all swings during your session, until you hit the stop record button.
(The app works independent of the Blast Motion sensor which focuses on bat speeds and launch angles).
Blast Vision Strengths
There a lot of things to like about Blast Vision and we will get right to the most important, cost. While it does similar things to the Rapsoda and Hit Trax it doesn’t do them quite as well or with the same level of in-depth metrics. But, it costs only a fraction of the price. After a 2 week free trial of the app, you have the option to purchase it for $10. While $10 is a fairly steep price for an app, we think it is worth it.
Blast Vision is simple and easy to use. It took us only a couple minutes the first time to get started but did take some tinkering to get it working more efficiently due to the environment where we set up the tee.
Not only does it provide instant communication of the results of each swing (both visually and auditory), it video records each swing you take. We used a bluetooth speaker hookup so we could hear the readouts after each hit , rather than having to go over and check each swing on the screen.
Blast Vision also tracks where each hit would go as well as the distance and displays them on a spray chart. Using that chart, you can then select an individual hit and look at the metrics for that specific swing. We tended to see a high concentration of hits up the middle as opposed to pull or opposite field hitting on the spray chart. It is hard to say whether the app struggles with direction accuracy because of its placement and limitations, or if our hitters were hitting more up the middle (which tends to happen off the tee).
Blast Vision Video Capture
One of the truly outstanding features of the app is its ability to record each and every swing the player takes and play it back in controlled slow motion. We found this was very helpful, especially to compare swings with better results versus swings that didn’t produce the results we were looking for.
The only drawback to this feature is that the device needs to be pretty much at the maximum of 11-12 feet away from the hitter to see all of their swing in the frame. At 9-10 feet away we got video of just the swing finish on the front side. Using the device at the farther distance can be difficult in cramped or confined spaces. We ended up rearranging a little (hitting in the basement) to be able to back the camera up to take full advantage of this feature.
Another of the features we have found useful is the ability to label and take notes on sessions in the app. We have used this feature to label who was hitting and with what bats so we could go back over them and compare the results on which bats had higher exit velocities.
Blast Vision Weaknesses
Maybe more appropriate than calling them weaknesses, is to indicate that there were nuances we had to work around to fully obtain the advantages of the app. First is that it is very helpful to have a tripod for your device. While, we had a tripod, we had to wait on shipping for the iPhone attachment (approximately $7), so our early sessions were done without one. We were able to make it work by setting the phone on furniture, but even the slightest movement messes with the accuracy and can cause it not to record each swing. Not a big deal for us as we had the tripod, but something to consider in making a purchasing decision.
Early on, we also experienced difficulty with it missing swings quite a bit. We suspected this was the result of poor lighting conditions, and after upping the brightness in the unfinished basement we solved this problem.
Needs New Phone
Blast Vision also requires newer phone technology to be able to process. This means that our iPad Air did not have enough power to properly run the app. Neither did an older iPhone 6. We have to run it with our iPhone 7+ which means we are without our phone during hitting sessions.
We also found that the readings tend to be a little inflated when comparing the same hitters results from both the Blast Vision sensor and hitting with a Hit Trax. It seemed that exit velocity was increased by about 8-10 mph. We don’t consider that such a bad thing as long as we are aware of it. It seemed to increase our player’s confidence a little and give him goals to work towards.
Only Tee Work
Blast vision also works from pitches on a tee. Platforms like Rapsodo and Hit Trax allow you to use it during live pitching. For a true analysis, especially when comparing bat pop performance, we think that much better. But, as we’ve stated above, those devices are much more expensive.
Is Blast Vision Worth it?
Although the data appears to be skewed a bit high compared to HitTrax (as it was in our test) we can use the data captured in the app, relative to each other, in perspective. With that in mind, we think the app is well worth the $10. Even if you include the cost of a tripod you may not have.
We have also found the players look forward to hitting off the tee a little more and have some fun with it. Blast Vision is easy and intuitive to use and can become one of the better development and tracking tools you can have, especially in that price range.
Today we look at the various equipment softball bat bags that each company offers. I will not put them in any particular order and will not rate them from best to worst, what I will do is give an accurate unbiased opinion of each softball bat bag. As a serious slow pitch softball player I have a lot of experience with each.
<<<You might also like our conversation on baseball bat bags.>>>
The criteria that I will adhere to is size, durability, and options. I will look at the bags offered by Easton, DeMarini, Louisville Slugger, and Diamond.
Recommendations on Softball Bat Bags
All of these bags offer many features that are the same like a large main compartment and wheels to move it around, both features that benefit all players. Depending on how many bats you need to carry, almost all the bags will carry up to four bats and price out from reasonable to a lot.
Our Favorite Softball Bat Bag
The one softball bat bag that separates itself apart from the rest is the Boost bat bag by Louisville Slugger. It has a main compartment for up to 5 bats and two side sleeves that hold one bat. In terms of value, it offers the biggest bag for the buck.
However, from personal experience the Easton 900C is one of the more durable bags on the market. I have this bag for over 6 years and it is still going strong. No matter if you are on a traveling team, school team, or just a weekend warrior this list will give a good glance at what bags are out for any player.
Some of the bags below are worthy of gifts, but see our favorite bat bags for gifts.
Best Softball Bat Bags
|Diamond Boost||Best Value||5/5||$$|
|Easton 900C||Best Overall||5/5||$$$|
Best Value: Slugger Boost
- Separate dual main compartment
- Main bat section holds up to 5 bats
- Side mounted dual bat sleeve
- Vented shoe compartment
- Side accessory compartment
- Pull handle for easy transportation
- Can be carried as a backpack and a side carry bag
Best Overall: Easton 900C Wheeled Gear Gag
- Wide-Set of Wheels for maneuverability.
- Fence hooks.
- Multiple compartments. Large enough to carry everything that you need for a weekend tournament.
- Insulated cooler compartment.
- Has a removable flap that can customized with name and numbers.
- Hold 3-5 bats
Easton Softball Bat Bats
Easton E 610W Wheeled Bag
- Durable wheels to help moving it around
- Fully zippered main section
- Removable shoe pocket
- Large straps for carrying.
- Large side pocket
- Lockable zippers ( lock not provided)
- MSRP $79.99
Easton E510W Wheeled Bag
- All – New rubberized pullers with a large main compartment for dugout storage.
- Removable Panel for customization.
- Heavy – Duty Wheels for ease of transporting those necessary items for the game
- Separate compartment for up to four bats.
- MSRP $ 59.99
DeMarini Softball Bat Bags
Special Ops Wheeled Bag
- Armoured bat compartment holds up to four bats
- Removable panel for customization
- Phone pocket
- Hard body construction
- Telescoping handle
- Breathable and washable shoe compartment.
- Colored inline wheels
See our full DeMarini OPS Bat Bag Review.
Grind Wheeled Bag
- Large main compartment
- Ventilated show compartment
- Large wheels for those rugged terrains
- 2 Integrated fence hooks
- Inside valuables pocket.
- MSRP $129.99
Momentum Wheeled Bag
- Large main compartment
- Bat section holds up to 4 bats
- Integrated fence hooks
- Removable panel for customization
- MSRP $79.95
Louisville Slugger Softball Bat Bags
Prime Rig Wheeled bag
- Large main compartment
- Padded bat compartment for 4 bats
- Fleece lined valuables pocket
- Removable panel for customization
- Interior brace to help bag stand up
- Vented shoe compartment
- MSPR $ $179.99
Select Rig Wheeled Bag
- Large main compartment
- Compartment for 4 bats
- Fence hooks
- Removable customizable panel
- Interior shelves for gloves
- Large side pocket
- MSRP $ 119.95
Series 5 Rig Wheeled Bag
- Large main compartment
- Removable customizable panel
- Separate shoe compartment
- Durable J style fence hooks
- Side pocket for storage
- MSRP $69.99
Diamond Softball Bat Bags
- Large main separated compartments
- Two Individual bat compartments
- Pull handle for easy transportation
- Available in 11 colors
- MSRP $ 150.00
Edge Bat Bag
- Lightweight rolling bag
- Bat sections for up to 4 bats
- Large main compartment
- Separate shoe compartment
- MSRP $ 68.50
As a player, I was always looking for ways to keep my swing locked in. But over the course of an eight month season (or longer when I played Winter Ball) there were peaks and valleys when it came to my consistency and it drove me nuts trying to find the proper swing once again.
As I began coaching my sons and training elite hitters in SoCal, the same exact issues would plague my hitters—one game their bat path and timing were perfect but the next game they looked disconnected and lost at the plate.
<<<You might also like our best batting tee commentary>>>
Pro Glider Bat Video Review
One of the drills my dad used to have me do when I was in a funk was to gather a bunch of bats and head to home plate. He would tell me to swing and let go of the bat to a certain direction. So he would yell, “Up the middle”, and I would swing and let go of the bat, sending it flying. Often times I would fling the bat into the third base dugout telling me that I was pulling my front shoulder out. Or while trying to throw it up the middle it would go to the first baseman signaling that my hands “casted out” and/or I didn’t rotate my back foot.
This drill was something that really helped identify the culprit to my disjointed swing. I used this for my young players until I discovered what I believe is the greatest training tool ever created for hitters—The ProGlider Training Bat.
My day job is in marketing and advertising . About three years ago I was asked by my ad agency supervisor to look into a baseball training tool he saw on the internet. I went to their website and discovered a tool I had never seen but was super interested in trying out. The tool was the ProGlider Training Bat.
I called their 800 number and a nice gentleman answered the phone on the first ring and I began my “pitch” to interest him into meeting with us to see if we could establish a mutually beneficial business arrangement. He agreed and we met bringing a ProGlider with him to the first meeting.
Before we even sat down to chat, my supervisor (a former HS player) and I began to test it out inside our building. My first few attempts were not pretty as I shot the ball to the right over and over. The ProGlider inventor/owner, Alan Tande, calmly said, “You’re not rotating your back side so your hands are casting out early.” I couldn’t believe how quickly I actually “felt” the off timing from not syncing my back side up with my hands. The next swing I shot it way left and Alan calmly said, “You over adjusted and pulled your front shoulder forcing your top hand to accelerate too early.” Again I was totally blown away that he perfectly diagnosed the issue after just one swing. Finally, I took a deep breath, with everyone in my office watching, and shot a perfect line drive up the middle. I could totally “feel” how that swing was timed perfectly. I consciously was able to focus on getting my hands out while my back side cleared and flipped the ProGlider at the exact point needed.
The Making of the Pro Glider Bat
As we met, Alan elaborated on the origin of his idea to create the ProGlider and I was blown away. He said that he was a former Travel Softball Coach and his teams were always nationally ranked including an ASA National Championship team with many players going to college to play. He said that he used to help his hitters with drills especially his favorite drill—throwing bats to specific fields! I started laughing out loud as that was my dad’s favorite drill also! Alan then explained the science behind the ProGlider and I was completely hooked.
Alan started to describe how the ProGlider was designed to create the perfect bat path using the principles of “Motion of Inertia” or MOI.
How the Pro Glider Works
MOI is best described as putting a cup of coffee on your dash board while driving straight. (See our BBCOR swing weight measurements of bats). If the vehicle is going at a steady speed and direction, the coffee will stay where you put it. But if you take a hard left—the coffee will shoot to the right. That is EXACTLY what happens when a batter begins the swing by casting their hands out! When a batter casts the hands early the MOI designed ProGlider reacts by sliding early and flinging the ball to the right (assuming you are right handed). At this point I couldn’t help but blurt out loud to Alan, “Why didn’t you invent this in 1985? I’d still be playing to this day!!!”
I could immediately “feel” a good swing or a bad swing with or without the ball. The click from the ProGlider is set up for every bat size and weight to click at the proper time based on the MOI created by the batter. I began to imagine how I would have had a ProGlider in my personal luggage on road trips, swinging the ProGlider in my hotel room before we had to get on the bus to the visiting stadium. I’d also have another one in my baseball bag for work prior to hitting off the tee. This tool simply blew my mind. It’s so simple I have had five year olds “feel” the swing being late or early and without instruction, self-correct their swing.
As I began to be asked by more and more players to train them, I asked Alan if I could offer my players a discount on purchasing their own ProGlider. He agreed and we began to form a great relationship that we still have to this day.
I love that my youngest players can get a 28” -12 ProGlider just like their game bat and my High School players can get BBCOR -3. The ProGlider bat is super durable and I saw one with an estimated MILLION swings! It was one of the first ones sold to softball legend, Jen Schroeder and her dad Mike, for use at their facility in Yorba Linda, CA. This million swing ProGlider still works like new, just the black anodized surface had been worn down to the silver aluminum from so much use.
Recently we created a series of ProGlider videos using a high speed camera that can capture 2,500 frames per second. This is the same super slo-mo you’ll see on TV games where you can see the laces rotate on the pitch. TheProGlider video series details the origin of the idea for the bat, the perseverance Alan endured to get it produced and why it works so well keeping hitters in the proper bat path. The ProGlider keeps the swing consistent so peaks last longer and the valleys are less severe.
Pro Glider Bat Improvements
To further enhance the ProGlider experience, I have designed a portable home plate with target pitches for my players to use when using the ProGlider. This design is simple or you can use three baseballs placed on the ground also. I tell my hitters to focus on one of the balls and swing the ProGlider where that pitch is located. When I stand behind them, I can see where the ProGlider ball releases in relationship to the ball on the ground.
This is an EXCELLENT drill for players who lock out their lead arm, drift forward with their head, neglect to rotate their back foot/knee, pull their front shoulder or roll over with their hands.
The very first thing I do with all my players as we begin a session is to get them to control the ProGlider. If they can’t swing and send the ball from the ProGlider to the target, it’s useless to go to the next station. One of the D1 commits I train couldn’t control the ProGlider the first session we had together. It took 20 minutes before he finally hit one straight. But when he did, he “felt” the difference in his bat path and it has made him much more consistent by allowing his barrel to stay in the path of the ball longer creating a massive margin for error.
Becoming a Great Hitter
The best hitters in the history of the game have one thing in common—they kept their bat in the path of the ball for a very long time giving them opportunities to barrel up a pitch late, right on time or early. There are some copy-cat inventions out there, but the patented ProGlider’s unique qualities of MOI are what separate this tool from anything else I’ve ever swung.
To me, any player serious about improving their consistency by getting into the proper bat path needs to get a ProGlider. The principles of “Motion of Inertia” simply do not lie. The ProGlider gives hitters feedback they can “feel” and they quickly learn to self-correct their swing until everything “clicks” on time. A batting tee or soft toss drills don’t offer this type of feedback and I can’t think of any other training tool that instills the most important thing a hitter needs on a daily basis—getting into the proper bat path and staying there.
See the Pro Glider Site
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, there are three traits shared by all successful hitters:
1. Good mechanics
2. Solid mental/aggressive approach
3. Good timing
Without even one of these a hitter is going to struggle. Although this article is about the ATEC T3 Batting Tee I use with my hitters, it is important to understand the reason why tee work is so important to the #1 trait of good hitters—proper mechanics.
How the Pros Warmed Up
When I was a player in High School, my Grandpa was the GM of the Dodgers. That brought along a lot of cool perks like being bat boy. I would arrive at Dodgers Stadium very early for a 7pm game to get things ready for batting practice.
I would often arrive around 2:30pm and begin the routine of getting the BP balls out onto the field. The route from the club house to the dugout was along this long and sloping corridor under the stands and right there was a small batting cage used primarily for tee work.
Even though the game was hours away, there were always players hitting off the tee in that small cage. I liked to stop, watch and listen to Manny Mota or Ben Hines work with a player. What I saw was quite the opposite of what many of my high school teammates thought. Many of my teammates felt that the tee was for little kids who couldn’t hit a pitched ball. They felt they were beyond the use of the tee. Well, when I told them that I saw Ron Cey or Dusty Baker hitting off the tee for an hour before batting practice, they were confused. They didn’t realize that tee work is the foundation for establishing and maintaining proper mechanics.
Over 30 years of training hitters, I have honed down a routine that takes the hitter through a series of movements that help to sync up the timing between the lower half and upper half of the body. These drills each serve a purpose and that is to get this player ready for batting practice where the ball is in the air and timing becomes a factor.
Before the tee, I use a tool called the ProGlider which instantly identifies any mechanical issues. A special Wiffle Ball is slid down this tool and it rests just above the hands on a slider. When the batter swings, it reacts to motion of inertia in that swing. Cast out early and ball flings to the right. Pull the front shoulder or don’t rotate back side and the ball flings to the left. GREAT tool to use first.
Once the hitter has been able to control the flight of the ball with the ProGlider, it time for the tee routine.
Atec T3 Review & Recommendations
First of all, I love my ATEC T3 tee because it’s collapsible and guaranteed for 10 years. The base easily screws into the tee and is quite durable. It’s a bit too light so I slide a 10 pound Olympic size weight down the tee so it won’t fall over as easy if the tee is hit with a swing.
Beginner Tee Hitting Routine
Let’s talk for a minute about tee alignment. When I first start to work with a new hitter I ask them to set the tee up where they like it. Almost all of the time, they set up the tee too deep in the swing. The proper alignment of the tee for a pitch down the middle of the plate should be where the front foot lands when they stride. For the outside pitch, the tee should be aligned just BEHIND the left foot stride point and IN FRONT of the inside pitch. This is critical because these are the points where the hitter has his optimal bat speed for each location.
The routine begins with a bat that is heavier than the one they normally use and 15 ounce heavy balls. There are several brands of heavy balls out there to choose from. I use the grey colored heavy balls from SKLZ and they run about $10 each.
I set the tee up high for this drill. The height is at the top of the strike zone. Why? There is an old adage that I heard way back from my days hanging around the Dodgers batting cage—“You can take a good swing down, but you can’t take a bad swing up”. So what does that really mean?
Once the feet are solid, I’m looking for a palm up / palm down attack. This is where a bad swing with the bottom hand dominating the swing or the top hand rolling over makes it impossible to hit the heavy ball teed up high especially using my 34” 32 ounce Chandler Maple bat.
What I’m looking for in this drill is for the player to connect with the high tee heavy ball and create backspin with the heavy bat. Since these heavy balls are filled with sand and the rubbery cover is flexible, the perfect heavy ball swing off the high tee actually stretches the heavy ball and it gets long and skinny as it rapidly spins. This indicates the batter made proper contact with the high pitch and their hands fired palm up / palm down at the proper time. This is not so easy with the heavy bat.
I ask the hitter to hit long shots to centerfield with the high tee heavy ball and once they have successfully accomplished that we switch to baseballs but keep using the heavy bat for this part of the routine. Again, I’m looking for the hitter to create backspin with the baseball hitting long shots to centerfield.
Advanced Tee Hitting Routine
Once the hitter has used the heavy bat and hit about 10 balls off the high tee to centerfield with back spin, I start to move the tee around.
I have the hitter switch to their WOODEN bat for this part of the routine. Switching from my heavy 32 ounce bat to their lighter wood bat is not as drastic a switch as if they were going to their aluminum bat with the light barrel weight.
I emphasize the following:
• Drive to deep center field
• Emphasize palm up/palm down upon contact
• Emphasize LOOOONG follow through
The long follow thru insures that the barrel path is in line with the path of the ball in flight for a long time which greatly enhances the margin for error in timing.
At this point, the batter switches to their aluminum bat or sticks with wood depending on what league they are playing in at that time. Now we work on pitch locations with a strategy of what they are going to do with the ball.
o High outside
– Drive to opposite alley with back spin
o Medium inside
– Get inside the ball and drive it up the middle or shade to pull side of field with back spin
– Get inside the ball by violently slamming back elbow into the ribs and hitting this pitch location over the shortstop’s head
o Low away
– This is where we talk about the two strike approach
– I train my hitters to look low and away with strikes and NEVER get beat there.
Toward the end of the routine, I have them visualize breaking balls and hit them in various locations. This helps with the foundation of their mental approach…another of the pillars of great hitters.
Tee Routine Duration
My tee routine usually is about 75 swings. Every swing is evaluated and I “split hairs” about mechanics at this phase of the batting session because if there are mechanical flaws in the swing off the tee, these flaws will only be amplified when we go to front toss next.
Since I 100% believe in tee work first, I stepped up to what I think is the best tee on the market. The versatility of the ATEC T3 tee ($99) allows me to work high, low, inside, outside and it’s bulletproof. Even the hitters with the fastest and strongest swings can’t break this thing. I love the rubber material on this tee because it durable but very flexible and doesn’t leave black marks on the bat like the old hard rubber tees do. It also easily breaks down and packs up nicely in to my bag. This is what makes it a better tee than others with the same design like the Tanner Tee.
I work with a player from Canada who has set up a tee and net in his garage. He hits in there when it’s below zero outside! There’s no excuse for neglecting tee work. If your hitter does not have a tee routine, get on it! Having a solid tee routine is critical for players at every level to insure proper mechanics before seeing pitches in the air.
So your kid is going to darn the ‘tools of ignorance’? While this idea can be both exciting and nerve wracking for parents it also comes with a whole new set of logistical issues to take care of. The least of which is not purchasing catcher’s gear for your young Yadier Molina or Buster Posey. We will run down some of the best options for youth catcher’s gear, what pieces you need and how to know if they’ll fit.
If you are looking at youth catcher’s gear, then 2019 USA Bats are probably up your alley too.
Pieces of Youth Catcher’s Gear
Youth Catcher’s gear sets come with 3 main pieces; the helmet/mask, chest protector, and leg guards. The price of the catcher’s gear will be driven by the quality of the materials in which the set is made. Higher priced sets will feature lighter but more protective padding and a larger focus on comfort of the gear.
Youth Catcher’s Gear Headgear
When choosing a set look at the quality and style of the helmet. There are two basic types of catcher’s headgear; traditional and hockey style. Almost every set you find for youth will be hockey style and the reasoning is most baseball associations do not allow the traditional style that is worn with a backwards ear less batting style helmet for younger players. If you or your catcher wants the traditional style I recommend checking with the associations in which they’ll be playing under first.
Another feature you will want to consider when choosing a set of catcher’s gear is the quality/thickness of the padding inside the helmet and whether its washable or replaceable if needed. Some headgear offers more breath-ability and moisture wicking padding.
You will also want to consider and pay special attention to the actual mask of the headgear and the visibility that it offers. Take into consideration the field of view from inside the helmet. While most brands have pretty similar FOV, Under Armour gets high marks in this area.
The chest protector also has a couple different styles to look for; the chest protector with a groin protector piece, without a groin protector piece, and a groin protector piece that can be removed if unwanted.
In higher priced sets you’ll find the protector has been lined with harder materials for more protection but also made to be lighter weight. Some sets also have removable shoulder pads. Sets on the lower end of the price range will tend to be a little bulkier and heavier though still completely functional.
The leg guards are going to look very similar at first but the differences in them will be in comfort and padding. Look for leg guards that have extra padding behind the knee for added protection for when your catcher is blocking balls in the dirt.
Some sets you will find will also come with triple knee pads adding extra protection and comfort especially for indoor workouts and training. Leg guards also come with different style straps to help stay in place or connect in back with padding.
Youth Catcher’s Gear Sizing
How do you know which size to get? You’re going to have to take some measurements of your catcher and follow the guidelines the manufacturers have provided.
Easton, Rawlings, All Star, and Wilson all offer a wider variety in sizing including Tee Ball sizes, and Wilson offers Small/Medium and Large/Extra Large sets. Rawlings offers a junior youth size. The Tee Ball and Junior sizes will be for players mostly under 8 years or so in age depending on the size of the player.
All the manufacturers offer a youth size which is recommended between the ages of 9-12. These sets will generally be adjustable enough to fit almost any player between those ages. You do want everything to fit nice and tight so it doesn’t shift and get in the way of the player or leave them vulnerable to injury because its out of place. This size fits all the players on our team that catch from one of our smallest kids to some of our bigger boys. This is the size I would recommend even for a 12 year old unless he was really big for his age.
The other size for youth players is intermediate size. These sets are intended for players between the ages of 12-15. If you have an 11 year old that’s on the larger size of things like we do you may be tempted to go with intermediate size and most of it will probably fit and work but the problem we ran into was the leg guards. Our player is about 5’3″ and 105 pounds. We ordered both a youth size set and an intermediate set hoping the intermediate would fit and get more years of use out of it. We were happy with the fit of the helmet and chest protector but the leg guards were far too long for him to use. Side note, check with the sites or stores return policy before you order as you may end up paying a “restocking fee” like we did when we had to return the larger size.
Youth Catcher’s Gear Pricing
Just like all the equipment we buy for baseball the pricing range can vary greatly. Youth catcher’s gear sets can be found for a little as $100 per set to upwards of $400. Keep in mind the sets on the lower end of the price range aren’t going to have some of the nicer features of pricier sets like extra knee padding, triple knee guards, more breathable fabrics, and lighter weight. Though you can fully expect to get a good set with many if not all of those features for between $150-$200.
It pays off to spend a little time to shop around online for the best deals, just remember to heed the return policy. Some sets will even come with a catcher’s bag to carry all the new gear in which will save you some expense, those these bags are not of the wheeled variety.
Top Brands of Youth Catcher’s Gear
There are a handful of trusted catcher’s gear manufacturers and with all of them there really is no wrong choice. When it comes down to choosing which gear to buy it’s usually a matter of choosing which options you want on your gear and which color combinations work best.
All Star Youth Catcher’s Gear
All Star is a well respected name and you can count on quality in their sets and all the options you are looking for in the moderate to higher end sets. All Star offers sets from around $130-$350. All Star also offers a large variety of color combinations and even different patterns to choose from. It is also one of the companies with which you can get a catcher’s bag included in the set. Look to spend around $300 for a set with all the bells and whistles.
Rawlings Youth Catcher’s Gear
Rawlings is great name in baseball and their catcher’s gear is no different. Rawlings offers sets from $100 range all the way up to almost $400. They have less color options than some of the others but still enough that you should be able to find what you’re looking for. Their high end set also comes with a catcher’s bag. A Rawlings set with the extra options will be around $160 or more.
Easton Youth Catcher’s Gear
Easton is another well known name in baseball. Easton has sets ranging from $100 up to almost $300 for their better sets of gear. As with other manufacturers the higher priced sets get lighter materials, more padding where needed and triple knee guards. Also you have to get to around $150 for more color options, with their top set having tons of color combos. Easton sets with all or most of the options will start around $180.
Mizuno Youth Catcher’s Gear
Mizuno is another recognizable name in baseball circles. Mizuno has basic sets that start around $150 and go up to $250 range. The Mizuno Samurai sets are complete sets with all the bonus features like extra padding and triple knee guards. This is the set we went with for our 11 year old catcher, partly because the groin protector and shoulder protectors were removable if he didn’t like them but also because he liked the style and color choices. Expect to spend around $200 for a set with all the features.
Under Armour Youth Catcher’s Gear
Under Armour is a name your player will definitely identify with and may want this set based on name recognition. Under Armour offers less variety in the number of set to choose from but what they do have in the youth market gets high praise, particularly for their helmet. Under Armour’s catching mask offers a slightly different style of mask which allows the player a little more visibility than other masks. Another bonus is some big box stores carry Under Armour sets on hand and you may be able to try on sizes there. There youth set will cost you about $200 with a few color options.
Other Youth Catcher’s Gear Brands
Some other manufacturers that are out there and just might be the right choice for you include Wilson with a slightly wider range of sizes. Diamond who’s higher end sets compete with any of the others but start in intermediate sizes. And Louisville Slugger with only a couple sets to choose from but priced very competitively.
Purchasing Pieces Separately
You always have the option to purchase the pieces of catcher’s gear separately. This is a great route to go if you know your player needs a larger or smaller chest protector or helmet but needs the regular size leg guards. I wouldn’t recommend this route if plan on buying all the pieces at the same time and need all youth sizes, it will end up costing just as much and probably more than purchasing as a set.
Youth Catcher’s Gear Bag
Your son or daughter’s current bat pack isn’t going to cut it and even if they have a roller bag already it may not be big enough to hold all their catcher’s gear plus other equipment. We currently use an older Mizuno bag left over from our slowpitch softball use. It is big enough to carry all of the gear but doesn’t leave much room for much else so he ends up carrying a bat pack too. If you want a top of the line catchers’ gear bag than look no further than No Errors bags, you will pay for the quality but they are very good. You could also purchase your own roller bag of another brand but make sure it’s large enough for all the equipment and has a pocket long enough for the leg guards. You could also use a large duffel bag but keep in mind without rollers it may be awfully heavy for a younger player to carry especially on those longer walks from the back of the crowded parking lot to the back fields. For that matter it may be a awfully heavy for you to carry, we know we don’t want to lug a catcher’s bag everywhere.
Youth Catcher’s Gear Accessories
We know no ballplayer is complete without all the little things that go along with baseball, catcher’s are no different. Some accessories you may want to consider are; knee savers which are fairly reasonably priced, thumb guards if your catcher is catching particularly hard throwers, a visor for those bright days behind the plate, a wrist protector, and a throat guard. Most of these can be bought to make their gear.
What Youth Catcher’s Gear to Buy?
So many options to choose from right? While that can be overwhelming it’s also a good thing. With all of these options you’ll be able to decide what features are important to you, find a manufacturer that offers them in the style and colors you like and a price you’re willing to pay. You should expect to pay minimum of around $150 up to $350. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of accessories and a bag to lug it all around in.