3 Ways Baseball Pitchers Can Use a Radar Gun to Enhance Performance

One of the simplest, yet most effective training aids for any baseball pitcher is a radar gun.

At one point in time, I was actually against having youth baseball pitchers use a radar gun too often and focus on velocity, but I actually think that there are a few great benefits.  And with recent advances in technology of radar guns, people can easily get an affordable pocket-size radar run, like the Pocket Radar, to use at home.

One of the key differentiators I see between amateur and professional baseball pitchers is often just intent.

What I mean is, our pro ball pitchers tend to throw with much more intent than our younger pitchers.  Sure, this could be that pro ball pitchers are older, bigger, and stronger.  But intent isn’t just an output of mass and strength.  It’s also an output of intensity, which is something many youth need to learn.

Even in our sports performance programs at Champion, our early focus with people new to training is developing intent when training.

So while I don’t necessarily want our amateur baseball pitchers focusing solely on velocity, I still think there are a bunch of great uses of a radar gun during training.

Here are my top 3 ways baseball pitchers can use a radar gun to enhance performance.

 

Enhance Power Development

Have you ever used a radar gun to check your velocity?  No matter what your velocity was on the first throw, what did you every time on that second throw?

Try to throw harder, right?  Of course you did, we all do!

In the motor learning world, this is a form of extrinsic feedback referred to as “knowledge of results.”  This can be used to give immediate feedback to the player to enhance technique, but also motivation.  We see this all the time, especially in athletes who are competitive in nature

We know that using external feedback and knowledge of the results in the sports performance world helps increase power output.  For example, in one study using external feedback of results was shown to help improve vertical jump performance.  In a 2014 study the Journal of Human Movement Science, it was shown that using feedback of vertical jump height performance results in an immediate increase in vertical jump performance, as well an 18% improvement in jump height over a 4-week training period.

One way that we apply this knowledge with our baseball players is with medicine ball power drills.  In this video, you can see we are using a radar gun set up to monitor the ball velocity.  The athlete is encouraged to ramp up his intensity on subsequent throws until he reaches his maximum velocity.  We’ll record this and try to improve over the course of his program, just like we would by recorded weights during his lifts.

 

Monitor Throwing Intensity

Another great use of a radar gun for baseball training is to monitor throwing intensity.  This is important for a few situations:

  1. A player returning from an injury that wants to slowly develop load to healing tissue
  2. A player preparing for a season that wants to slowly build capacity of the arm to handle stress
  3. A player inseason that wants to manage his workload more specifically

Monitoring the number of throws performed or pitch counts during a game is important, and something that we have shown to correlate to predicting both injury and performance.  However, using the quantity of throws on its own is too simplistic.  Overuse is more of a combination of quantity and intensity.

Compare one player playing light catch for 30 throws versus another long tossing for 30 throws.  Which one do you think was more stressful on the body?

By using a radar gun, you can document and build gradual progressions more appropriately.  Distance becomes less of a factor, and intensity becomes more specific.

Here’s an example of how we use a radar gun to ramp up a throwing session.  In this video you can see a few throws that slowly ramp up to the max intensity that we want that day.  The athlete then does his best to remain right around that velocity to get his work in for the day.

 

Improve Pitching Velocity

Using a radar gun to help improve pitching velocity is probably the most obvious.  When it comes to actually training to enhance pitching velocity, it has been shown that if pitchers know the speed of their pitch during their training, the have a larger increase in velocity.

In a recent study in the Journal of Human Kinetics, it was shown that if players were able to see their throwing velocity, the players were able to enhance their velocity by 4x more than if they did not know their speed.  That’s pretty amazing to me, and based off the same mechanisms of motor learning discussed above.

Another past study compared the throwing velocity of youth when instructed to “throw the ball hard” vs the same instruction with radar gun results.  Again the study showed that simply instructing the athlete to throw the ball hard does not increase velocity as much as when they can visually see the results.

In another interesting study in tennis players, it was shown that training for 6-weeks with feedback of serve velocity had a significantly greater improvement in velocity than a group that did not know their results.  But what is most interesting, is that this same group stopped training with external feedback of their velocity and still showed that the velocity improvements were retained 6 weeks after the program.

What this could mean is that training with the knowledge of your velocity not only helps motivate you to throw harder, but perhaps also trains you to continue to do this even when external feedback is removed.

So while I don’t think amateurs players should always be focusing on enhancing their velocity, I do think there are a few good reasons why the should focus on knowing their velocity.  Just like anything else, is the focus is on what is more important, a radar gun can not only be helpful to enhance performance, but also to control and monitor workload.

 

What Radar Gun Should You Use?

There are a few options when looking at purchasing a radar gun.  As you can see from the above examples, I value the convenience of having one on me.  So I value one that is portable and easy to use.  I’ve personally been using the Pocket Radar and think it’s perfect.  We’ve compared it to the more expensive guns, and it’s always just as accurate, but so much easier to use.

The new Smart Coach model is awesome, it can connect to an app on your phone or tablet via bluetooth, or even an external display.  This is what we’ve been using at Champion and everyone has loved it.

 

 

Q&A with Dear Baseball Gods Author Dan Blewett

Editors’ Note: Dear Baseball Gods: A Memoir is available today from all major online booksellers. Dan Blewett, one of our own here at Elite Baseball Performance, wrote the book, and we wanted to sit down with him to talk about his work, the process, and how it will help those who read it. Links to buy a copy are at the end of the article, and you can sample the first chapter here.

 

 

First, can you tell us what Dear Baseball Gods: A Memoir is about?

Sure! The format of the book is unique—each chapter is written as a letter to a person, conveying a piece of my story that I felt was useful, meaningful, and impactful to them. I chose this format because when I retired, I wrote my parents a letter thanking me for everything they did to help me along.

 

 

The book starts on the day I learned I needed to undergo Tommy John surgery for a second time, then backtracks to my youth, finally catching back up to the present day when I retired, then expanding on the grieving process we athletes go through as we exit that phase of our lives. You can read (or listen) to this first chapter here.

I was a walk-on at a small Division-I school that you probably haven’t heard of. The day I signed to play college baseball, a clock started ticking: I had four years to go from mediocre to great, because I did not want to stop playing baseball.

 

Two Tommy John surgeries later, I was still playing, still fighting to make it to the Major Leagues. As I navigated Independent Baseball, ruthless coaches, a team that collapsed due to non-payment of our salaries, getting cut and released, and suffering through constant arm pain, I grew up. I was an ordinary, average-sized right-handed pitcher who got a lot more years in the game than he should have.

 

What compelled you to write Dear Baseball Gods?

Well, I actually wrote what I thought was this book back in 2012. That summer, I wrote something like 80,000 words—a solid, full book’s worth—as I waited for surgery on the disabled list. Writing has always helped me sort things out, and what I wrote that summer ended up just being practice, though I referred back to it a few times.

 

At that time, getting a second Tommy John was exceedingly rare. I knew that twist really made my story different. I had already undergone a big transformation to that point, and the second surgery was yet another major obstacle. I hoped I could help others one day keep pushing through their own tough times.

 

What are the major themes in the book?

The book is much more than just recounting games, situations and my growth as a player. One major theme is the battle with the voice in my head that often bullied me to keep moving. I owe a lot of my success to that voice, but also a lot of pain. We athletes are in a constant state of battling the angel and devil on our shoulder, and there is a lot of that in the book.

 

Much of it is about re-framing bad situations. I made it through tough times because I found the bright side in many of them. As I look back on it all, I’m thankful for all of it—the amazing highs and the depressing lows. It made me who I am today.

The biggest theme, though, is personal identity. I wrote the book when I was grieving the death of my career, and the last quarter of it is about my transition out, something athletes almost never talk about. It’s very candid and honest, and it will resonate with people from all walks of life. Anyone who has ever tied their identity up in their career, just to lose their job and move on, will relate.

 

What prepared you to write a book? It’s no small undertaking!

This is actually something I discuss in the beginning and end—how we grow into different skills over time. I was always a good writer in school and chose to double-major in Philosophy & Psychology in college. I wrote my first book in 2013 and that broke the seal, so to speak.

In pro ball, I began journaling on bus rides, as writing helped me make sense of my world. I’ve also been blogging since 2008 and wrote freelance for a number of fitness websites for extra money throughout my playing days. Minor leaguers make almost nothing, so a little extra cash always helped. I became a decent ballplayer slowly, over time. I became a writer in the same exact way—”practicing” through years of writing in school and on the web.

Really, though, my background in Philosophy helped the most. It shaped how I perceive the world, how I form thoughts and find meaning in my life. The book is very philosophical, with a lot of deep discussion on the nature of why we athletes do what we do.

 

Who should read your book?

Anyone with a connection to an athlete, who wants a better understanding of what the journey is like, what an athlete will go through. Parents, coaches, athletes, baseball wives and girlfriends—all of these people will learn more behind the scenes, insider information that we players don’t often share.

I have an atypical story but am typical in that I kept a lot of the hard times to myself—my family learned more about me in the eleven hours it took to read through this than they probably did in the previous three decades.

And, the book is as much about others as it is about me. I tell the stories of a number of teammates who changed my perspective, as well as the stories of countless mentors who made me who I am.

For parents who want to know how they should be supporting their children, my story is a must. For players, they’re going to get the very real, authentic version of what it’s like to give their heart to a sport. Want to know what good parenting looks like? It’s in the book. Want to know what good coaches do to change a young person’s life forever? It’s in the book.

It’s about much more than baseball.

 

What’s it like putting out such a personal story? What’s the scariest or hardest part?

I thought little of it until the final month. Then, I started to panic. It’s exactly like jogging out there between the lines or walking onto the stage. Everything is easy, everything is clear until the spotlight and all eyes focus on you. I talked about this in a recent episode of my vlog.

If the book wasn’t genuine, or personal, I probably wouldn’t feel anything. I never got nervous pitching in games that didn’t matter.

Yet, I talk openly about a lot of topics that don’t make me look macho, that athletes sweep under the rug. I’m not aware of other books that have talked so much about the grieving process, the threat to personal identity that comes when a lifelong athlete hangs up his or her cleats.

This book is my whole career arc—rise and fall. In my last season, I watched my career die right in front of my eyes, my dreams flow down the drain. It was hard living it and hard writing it.

The reason I wrote this is because these things need to be talked about. I felt them; they exist. Athletes need to stop acting like it doesn’t hurt when we walk away after two decades chasing our dreams. I wanted people to know what it’s really like to give your heart to your career, just to have it broken in the end. That is why as launch date approached, I got more and more nervous—I was about to go out onto the stage and do a dance that no one had done before.

 

Where can people get a copy of Dear Baseball Gods: A Memoir?

It’s available pretty much everywhere online starting today. You can sample the book on audio below. Amazon or Danblewett.com are the only sources for paperback copies.

 

 

This book is closure on my career, and I know it will help parents, coaches and players to better understand what a life in sports does to a kid. It’s amazing, it’s hard, and it shapes your entire life.

 

Buy a Copy of Dear Baseball Gods: A Memoir Today

 

Listen on Audiobook Later This Month

The audiobook version is launching soon, and you can sign up for my email list here to get notified the day it launches. It will be available on Audible, Scribd, Overdrive and anywhere else you listen to audiobooks.

ASMI Injuries in Baseball Course Now Available Online

Elite Baseball Performance is excited to announce that we have just released the exclusive online version of the 2017 ASMI Injuries in Baseball Course.  Learn from the leading experts in baseball sports medicine!

The American Sports Medicine Institute has been conducting their annual Injuries in Baseball Conference for 35 years under the direction of course co-chairmen Dr. James Andrews, Dr. Glenn Fleisig, and Kevin Wilk.  This is the longest running and most prestigious scientific conference dedicated to the care of baseball players.

The online version of the conference contains a collection of presentations from the event earlier in the year.  This is the most cutting-edge information available on on baseball injuries.

ASMI Injuries in Baseball Conference

 

2017 ASMI Injuries in Baseball Course

asmi injuries in baseball course

The 2017 course is the premier conference for baseball related injuries and performance enhancement.  

And with the online version, you can access the course at anytime, from any device, anywhere in the world with internet access!  

The course contains over 8 hours of content detailing pitching biomechanics, baseball specific functional anatomy, clinical examination, surgical management, injury rehabilitation, and performance enhancement for baseball players.​  Presenters include Glenn Fleisig, Kevin Wilk, Mike Reinold, and several MLB team physicians, athletic trainers, and strength coaches.  Topics include:

Shoulder

  • Biomechanics of the Shoulder During Pitching – Fleisig
  • Examination of the Throwing Shoulder – Jordan
  • Labral & Biceps Pathology in Throwers – Conway
  • Rehabilitation of SLAP Lesions – Macrina
  • Full & Partial Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears – Mazoue
  • Rehabilitation of Rotator Cuff Lesions – Wilk
  • Putting it All Together – Andrews

Elbow

  • Biomechanics of the Elbow During Pitching – Escamilla
  • Examination of the Throwing Elbow – Conway
  • UCL Reconstruction: Current Technique and Outcomes – Cain
  • Long Term Outcomes of UCL Reconstruction – Osbahr
  • Augmented UCL Repair with Internal Brace – Dugas
  • Rehabilitation of UCL Injuries of the Elbow – Wilk

Rehabilitation and Performance

  • Training for the Scapulothoracic Joint & Thoracic Spine – Paine
  • Plyometric Training for the Thrower: Techniques & Evidence – Escamilla
  • Oblique Injuries In Baseball – Conte
  • Training the Core – Crenshaw
  • Breathing Exercises to Enhance Rehab & Performance – Crenshaw
  • Interval Throwing Programs Revisited: Where Are We Today – Axe
  • Extending Throwing Programs for the Thrower Following UCL Surgery – Porterfield
  • Effects of 6-Week Weighted Ball Throwing Program on Velocity & Arm Stress – Reinold

Youth Baseball

  • Update on Risk Factors in Youth Baseball Pitchers – Jordan
  • Longitudinal Changes in Pitching Mechanics from Youth to High School – Fleisig
  • Impact of Youth Baseball on MLB – Reed

Softball

  • Pain History & Pitching Mechanics in Collegiate Softball – Oliver

 

Save $100 Off Now Through Sunday June 25th at Midnight EST

To celebrate the launch of the program, we are offering it for $100 off the regular price of $299.  You can purchase the program for only $199 now through Sunday June 25th at midnight EST.  Click the button below to learn more and purchase now!