Category Archives: Technology

Guthrie, Prairie Heights baseball embrace technology for training

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

“Kids just love playing video games. They’re playing video games at practice and they love it.” — T.J. Guthrie, head baseball coach at Prairie Heights High School

Always looking for ways to develop his players, Guthrie added Virtual Reality to the Panthers’ practice regimen by bringing in a WIN Reality system which helps hitters with things like pitch recognition.
Athletes don a headset and get a fully-immersive experience, seeing realistic pitches in what looks like a professional stadium.
“I’m constantly scouring the Internet and social media to see what is out there to better our kids,” says Guthrie, who introduced WIN Reality when players returned from winter break in January. “I like to mix up our training routines.
“Some days we don’t get the gym with the batting cage and we can still get in live work. We’re getting that cognitive intuition we need on a much better scale.”
With the WIN Reality, players go through graduated sequence of eight drills. The first is basic, recognizing fastball, curveball and change-up. They are also tracking the pitch. This is done by asking the hitter to point the controller to where the ball ended up in the strike zone.
Later comes the “disappearing pitch” drill where the pitch might go away at 50 feet or less and hitters are still asked to recognize it.
“It really starts to challenge guys,” says Guthrie. “They see their averages at the end (of drills) and the begin competing against each other.”
Guthrie notes that the technology is not new and is used by numerous pro and college teams. Now it has come to Brushy Prairie, Ind.
Using the VR trainer offers an efficient way to see more pitches in less time than would be possible with the traditional methods alone.
“We’re certainly not taking away from the live BP,” says Guthrie. “We’re adding to it in a risk-free environment.”
While identifying these WIN Reality pitches, no swings are taken. Hitters pull the trigger on the controller. The system tells them when they made that decision and if it was in the optimum window of when they could hit the pitch.
“You’re not training your body,” says Guthrie of the VR work. “We’re using this to train the brain.
“We’re using cage to train the body on the proper fundamentals.”
WIN Reality does include an optional bat attachment and collects data on swings.
Guthrie, a 2011 Fremont (Ind.) High School graduate who had his college career ended by injury, embraces tech.
He uses smart baseballs that track spin rates, velocity and movement. There are Blast Motion sensors on his players’ bats to give feedback.
“We’re getting video of guys all the time,” says Guthrie, who likes to shoot 4K at 60 frames-per-second. “We go frame-by-frame and make sure we’re not missing anything.”
A phone app called Coach’s Eye allows for comparative side-by-side videos. It’s helpful for pitchers trying to make all their pitches look the same coming out of their hand.
Guthrie says that pitch recognition training when he was a player involved a VCR.
“We’d see a one-second clip of a ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand,” says Guthrie. “But it did not mix it up like the real pitcher does.”
Guthrie has used YouTube videos for this purpose. There is also a phone app called GameSense Pitch-IQ.
With Guthrie and varsity assistants Mike Gustin (pitching coach), Tyler Christman and Ryan Fulton, junior varsity coaches Gene Smith (head coach), Dave Priestley (pitching coach), Shane Richards and JV statistician Reese Smith, Prairie Heights is preparing to compete in the Northeast Corner Conference (which also includes Angola, Central Noble, Churubusco, Eastside, Fairfield, Fremont, Garrett, Hamilton, Lakeland, West Noble and Westview) and IHSAA Class 2A in 2022.
“The NECC seems to be going in a high-velocity direction,” says Guthrie. “We’ve got a lot of great pitchers in this conference. It was bound to happen because of the push for travel ball. The kids want to get better day in and day out.
“We need to know how we improve at the plate. You’ve got to score runs to win games. The velocity is one thing. It’s the curve balls, sliders and change-ups that are beating us.
“Recognizing the pitch is half the battle.”

Prairie Heights High School baseball uses Virtual Reality technology with a WIN Reality system.
A WIN Reality Screenshot.
A WIN Reality Screenshot.
A WIN Reality Screenshot.

Northridge Raiders employ technology for hitting development

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Baseball in 2021 is full of metrics — numbers attached to performance and development.

The Northridge High School program uses data collected by their portable Rapsodo unit to improve hitting.

A system that includes a machine that weighs about 14 pounds costs upwards of $4,000 and comes with a $500 a year subscription.

“It’s an investment,” says Northridge head coach Andrew Brabender. “But it helps utilize the kids’ potential.”

During indoor workouts and continuing into outdoor practices, metrics on such things as exit velocity (“the speed of the baseball as it comes off the bat after contact”), launch angle (“the vertical angle at which the baseball leaves the bat after contact”), spin rate (“the rate at which the ball spins during flight after contact, measured in rotations per minute or RPM”) and spin direction the tilt or angle of the baseball from the contact point, measured in degrees, created by the Magnus effect. The Magnus Effect is created by the air pressure surrounding the spinning baseball on its path from the bat”) is being collected, displayed on a laptop and stored in a cloud, which players and coaches can access.

Brabender says he wants his hitters to bring the metrics together, experience an “aha” moment and put it into action.

“We’re trying to stay as current as possible,” says Brabender. “But Launch Angle is the metric and not the swing.”

The coach emphasizes that is data that is giving hitters feedback and helping them learn how to swing to create the backspin that gets to ball to elevate — and hopefully — carry.

“It’s not something you teach, it’s something you measure,” says Brabender. “We’re trying to hit line drives over the infielders’ heads.”

It’s what Brabender calls “result-oriented” training.

“The guys put their body in the right position — for example — to hit it over the L-screen or into targets,” says Brabender.

To promote competition, weekly leaderboards have been posted.

“We make it really competitive in the winter,” says Brabender. 

The Middlebury, Ind.-based Raiders can earn T-shirts for various clubs — 85 mph, 90 mph, 95 mph etc. This means the player has reached that level in exit velocity off their bat and with running “pulldowns” while throwing.

Senior Carter Gilbert, University of Kentucky commit, and junior Clint Walker have reached the 100 mph plateau this year.

“College coaches want to see (metrics),” says Brabender. “It’s more than (traditional baseball) stats.

“It’s taken over the game and how you instruct. But you still have to throw and catch the baseball.  That’s where is starts and ends.”

After missing the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Northridge was to start the 2021 season today (March 30) at West Noble then debut the new turf of D-Bat Elkhart Field Wednesday (March 31) against Penn.

Northridge High School baseball team (Middlebury, Ind.) using Rapsodo machine. (Steve Krah Photo)
Rapsodo metics from a March 25, 2021 offensive baseball practice at Northridge High School (Middlebury, Ind.) are collected on a laptop. (Steve Krah Photo)