Baseball is changing before our eyes. It seems almost daily that I hear of a new product, technique, or way of thinking that might “change the game forever.” However, there won’t be one single product or idea that changes our game for good, because the technological mutation of baseball has been taking place for years. Our entire sport has started to become smitten with new technology, and this adaptation of technology has occurred at every level. I’m sure this information isn’t groundbreaking news to anyone reading this, as we have all seen the game transform with instant replay in the MLB, hitting simulators at batting cages, weighted balls across all levels, and much, much more.
This overwhelming amount of access to new technology has created a unique problem for many parents and players – Which products work, which are gimmicks, and which are actually worth purchasing?
Unfortunately, I cannot answer these questions for every product out there, because it might take years and possibly millions of dollars to try them all. However, I can offer some insight as to some truths I’ve discovered through my own experiences of using new products in my own development.
In my opinion, almost every new baseball product and technology you discover can offer some form of benefit to any player at the youth and high school levels. Now are some products immensely more beneficial than others? Absolutely. But my point still remains – An amateur player can become a better player by using most products on the market. One huge reason I believe this to be true is that usage of more products generally translates to more time spent practicing. Any additional time a high school student-athlete can spend training outside of team practices gives him a crucial advantage over his peers who aren’t putting in that extra time. New products not only increase the amount of time spent training, but they also add versatility to a player’s training routine. When training becomes monotonous, players can become complacent and lose focus, interest, and time. Using various training aids help keep players of all ages, including professionals, engaged and eager to practice. For these reasons, I have always kept an open ear to hearing which products other players have been using in their training.
Now, when starting to look for a new product to utilize in your own development, you must first identify a prominent part of your game that you seek to improve. Pitchers generally are looking for the best ways to increase velocity and improve mechanics. Hitters tend to look for ways to increase bat speed, improve their swing mechanics, and generate more power. By choosing a broader development goal, you can often avoid the trap of a gimmicky product that is geared to addressing one small aspect of your game.
After identifying a target development goal, always look to your teammates, coaches, and other baseball resources to see which products they have used and might recommend. Now, with that being said – Do not be afraid to experiment with new products as well. As our sport evolves, so do the products available on the market. The modern market demands data and success stories, and the new training aids being released are often accompanied by research for both. MLB teams are doing their best to stay ahead of the curve by incorporating new science and technology in their organizations, don’t be afraid to do the same.
What products have I seen benefits from?
Ever since HS, I began experimenting with new training aids in my pitching warm-up routines whenever possible. I used the Crossover Symmetry band routine at every practice and game before I began throwing from my sophomore year of HS through my senior year of college at Holy Cross. I began using the Jaeger band routine in addition to the CS bands starting my junior year at Holy Cross, and I still use them in my professional training today. During my 2nd season of professional baseball, I was introduced to the Delivery Value System band routine, and I now start with that before moving to the J-Bands each day. Now I’m not suggesting every pitcher go out and buy 3 different sets of warm-up bands, but that progression should show you that your routine should never become stagnant. Be open to experimenting and finding the best aspects of something new and seeing how they apply to your needs.
In addition to the various band warm-ups, I also began incorporating weighted balls into my offseason training during my senior year of college. I started with the NPA weighted ball program, but I did not see any notable gains in velocity during my training. But that program did teach me a great lesson one day – I was doing the program at my local baseball academy when another collegiate player approached me, excited to see me using the NPA balls, and he told me how he saw an 8mph jump in his top velocity from the program. I was baffled. I picked his brain to see how this could be true, and I came to the realization that every single athlete is different. Our bodies and minds all respond differently to new training aids, workout programs, and mental approaches to the game. We both did the same program, the same way, for the same period of time. His body and arm just responded better to the standard program. So I went looking for a new program to try out, and saw much better success using a different program, which I still use today.
Hitters are you bored yet? Well I may not be a 2-way guy anymore, but I’ve made sure to keep my finger on the pulse of training aids for hitters as well. With simulators like Hittrax helping to provide more athletes with instant feedback of exit velocity, launch angle, and much more, players and coaches at every level are searching for new products to elevate these numbers. One product that I have found to be incredibly innovative is SuperSpeed Slugger – A training system that focuses solely on one of the most sought after goals in hitting : Increasing bat speed. SuperSpeed Slugger offers a scientific over-speed training workout using 3 bats that are designed to activate and train your body’s fast twitch muscles. After just a few months on the market, 5 MLB teams, including the World Champion Houston Astros, have already purchased SuperSpeed Slugger bat sets. I expect to see SuperSpeed Slugger become one of the top training aids on the market in 2018.
I’ll wrap up with a few of the takeaways that I hopefully conveyed in this wordy blog.
- Incorporating new technology into your training isn’t always about finding what works best for someone else, but instead what works best for you, your body, and your mind.
- There’s always benefit to be found in something new. Just be cautious before diving completely into a new routine. You can still find benefit by doing a new routine or using a new product in moderation before fully submerging yourself in it.
- Embrace the data-driven and research-backed state of the game we are living in. Don’t be afraid to experiment, because the inclusion of new products can help separate you from the competition.
Article by Donny Murray – Founder of Pros Know Best and current professional pitcher with the Utica Unicorns. You can read more about Donny and his recruiting process here: