Accurate radar guns used to be very expensive. A Stalker gun — the one MLB scouts have used for decades — still runs north of $1,400, in fact. But these days, the idea of implementing radar into your practices isn’t nearly as costly.
Pocket Radar has been something of a game-changer in this regard, making radar affordable and accessible for baseball coaches of all age groups (even Little League).
I first saw the product at an ABCA Barnstormers clinic in the fall of 2018, and about six months later I plunked down $400 for the Pocket Radar Smart Coach. This is the most expensive model, and it links to an app on your cell phone that automatically captures video and displays the velocity (MPH). Very slick. A cheaper option, the Pocket Radar Ball Coach, runs you $300 and offers the same accurate readings but doesn’t capture video or link to the app.
Our advice is to pay the extra $100 to get the Smart Coach, as the video is extremely useful. The automatic capture option allows you to store short video snippets of every swing or throw on your smart phone, and its nice to be able to refer back to and share when needed.
Here’s a look at three of my favorite ways I’ve found to use the Pocket Radar:
- Tracking progress of throwing velocity – After a 2-3 weeks of using a dedicated throwing program to get everyone’s arm up to speed, make a point to get a reading of every player’s throwing velocity and make sure they know how fast they can throw. That’s your starting point. Then, a month later, after continuing with a dedicated throwing program that hopefully includes Jaeger bands and long toss, get another reading. You can see how well your throwing program is working, and see how much each player has improved. The more your players are aware of their numbers, the more they will buy into building up their arms and throwing harder.
- Tracking exit velocity – Without radar, how would you ever know which player hits the ball the hardest? It’s not always who you think, and it’s eye opening when you see the actual numbers for each of your players. In Little League, it takes an exit velocity of 60 to hit a home run over a 200-foot fence, and generally speaking every addition MPH of exit velo translates to roughly 5 feet of distance.
- Testing different bats – Any time someone has to buy a new bat, it’s an expensive purchase. At the very least, it’s going to run $60 but many bats today run between $100-350. The bottom line here — if you’re buying a new bat, you want it to be the one that works best and, most specifically, hits the ball the hardest. Before my son gets a new bat, I break out the radar and give him 20-30 swings with each bat he’s considering. Play round with different weights, as that matters more than you might think. A 13-year-old should strongly consider moving from a drop-8 to a drop-5, for example, and the added mass typically boosts the exit velocity considerably.