In the beginning, radar guns had their place… hidden behind a bush off the side of the highway trying to catch the red Mustang doing 95. It wasn’t until the mid-1970’s that radar guns made their way into the ball parks. Ever since, they’ve proven to be popular tools for baseball players, coaches, and scouts. And there’s good reason for it. Radar guns provide the most accurate, unbiased performance feedback for throwing, hitting, and pitching velocities.
Over the years, many radar guns from various manufacturers have strived for one thing: accuracy. A radar gun that doesn’t read the correct speed is like a glove with a hole in it. It’s safe to say that after 40 years of product testing and advanced engineering that the top companies have a firm grip on the accuracy issues. However, from a design standpoint, there is only one radar gun that leaves the others in the dust, and it’s called the Pocket Radar.
Unlike all big and bulky radar guns, the award-winning Pocket Radar is the first radar gun you can actually fit in your pocket. Instead of resembling the shape and grip of a gun, the Pocket Radar is more like a cell phone. It’s very discreet, at a great price, and it’s just as accurate as some of the most expensive radar guns on the market (+/- 1 mph). From a scouting standpoint, it can be problematic to have a standard radar gun pointed at a kid on the mound. If a younger player sees that he’s being clocked, he’s much more likely to try to throw harder than he actually can, which can result in a poor performance or an arm injury. The discretion of the Pocket Radar is a unique and invaluable feature for scouts to stay off the players’ radar… pun intended.
The Pocket Radar comes in two different models: the Classic and the Ball Coach. The Classic model was designed as an all-purpose radar gun for clocking anything in motion. Though it wasn’t designed for reading pitch and swing speeds, this model still does the trick. The Ball Coach is a more improved model designed specifically for clocking speeds in sports. It has a Constant-On mode that allows for hands-free use and a recall memory of 25 speed readings. If you’re looking for a radar gun for the purpose of clocking baseball and softball speeds, the Pocket Radar Ball Coach is the way to go.
Slap-Happy; The Art of Slap Hitting in Fast-Pitch Softball
It is no secret by now that people love the long-ball. The girls with the walk- off homers and high RBI’s are the ones that get most of the glory in the softball world. As impressive as power hitters are; unless you’re launching solo shots on a regular basis, someone has to set the table for your big moments. Those table-setters often come in the form of a slapper. We caught up with Emily Allard, current Chicago Bandit (NPF) and all-time stolen base leader at Northwestern University.
“Not only is your job to get on base and "set the table," but just by being a slapper, you are automatically a threat the moment you step into the box. We have an incredibly unique ability to change the momentum of a game simply by putting the ball in play.”
Allard has enjoyed tremendous success as a slapper both in college and professional play. Her passion for the hitting style has driven the creation of her company, Be The Momentum with Kristin Jensen (formerly Scharkey) another former NU slapper standout. BTM, in Allard’s words “… focuses mainly on clinic instruction and social media support for slappers, but recently has expanded into speed, baserunning and defensive work as well”.
The slap hitter is an incredibly versatile and CRUCIAL hitter in the line-up. Often seen in the 1,2, or 9 spot; the slapper’s job is to get on base and move runners into scoring position. Newbie spectators of the game are often shocked to see that a slapper begins stepping into her route to first before contact is made with the ball. The purpose of the run-through is to get out of the box faster and lessen her time to first base. Allard adds, “As a slapper, your entire existence relies on your ability to get on base in any way possible, most often with short game or challenging the defense to make a play against your speed”.
The art of slapping can come in multiple forms. There is the slap-bunt (or drag-bunt), where the slapper makes her steps and drops a quick bunt down. The purpose of these bunts are for base hits so they are not considered sacrifices. Although, if a slapper gets thrown out on a drag bunt but also moves her runner, she was still productive! The second, and most authentic form of slapping is the infield slap. This can come in multiple forms (soft roller/high bounce), but is hit with the intention of beating the throw to first. This is a slapper’s opportunity to really showcase her speed and one of Allard’s favorite parts of slapping. “Our speed forces defenses to be PERFECT in order to get us out. That's fun“. Placement and bat control are crucial pieces to this technique. The final addition to the slapping repertoire is the power-slap. This technique is pretty self-explanatory. These slaps are base hits that make it through the infield. Power slaps come into play when an RBI is needed or if the outfield is playing you incorrectly. A quick analysis of the defense is all it takes for a slapper to strategize her power slap approach. When the outfield is playing deep, just a strong poke into shallow left-center is all it takes (the infield will typically play tight to defend the tap/drag leaving a gap in shallow OF). If the outfield is playing close (which is very commonly done), then unleash the full power slap and turn the would-be single into a double or triple.
Athletes who are able to master each slapping technique become virtually indefensible. Slappers are the ultimate triple threat at the plate and deserve major props for their production. They are able to speed up game and keep EVERYONE on their toes.
"Setting the table is just as important as clearing the bases." This is the BTM motto and a very true statement! Fortunately, with the accomplishments of big time slappers such as Allard, Caitlin Lowe, and Natasha Watley, the art of slapping has been put on the map and forced people to pay attention. Demarini has caught the slapping bug and created the FIRST and ONLY slapper specific bat. With a longer barrel and weighted even closer to the hands, the CF8 is tailored completely to the unique needs of the slapper. The CF8 Slapper is now available and we have it here at Better Softball. Come on by and try it out at our in-house demo stations!
Pros: Great pop. When you get a hold of one, the ball jumps off and it feels awesome. The vibrations are smooth and give great feedback. I felt immediate good vibrations- even the ones hit off the end felt better than I had anticipated. This comes in handy on colder days. I like that it was hot right out of the wrapper with little break-in time necessary. That is always nice to have a bat ready to go and feel confident the first time you swing it. The sound is good and the color scheme is great. I’m usually not a fan of the vibrant colors on bats, but this works and has some serious graphics to go along with it.
Cons: The Worth 2Legit is advertised as a -10 but it is the heaviest -10 I have swung. Power hitters love the weight distribution but slappers & balanced hitters need to steer clear. This bat isn’t conducive for your tools that make you productive. Also- there is a little grip ring on the top of the handle that hinders smooth bunt progression. Durability seems to be the main issue with these bats. Reviews are littered with horror stories of these bats not even lasting a month before cracks or busted end caps. No one wants to pay $300 for a bat that can’t maintain basic structure for a calendar year. Period. If that problem can be fixed, I really think it could compete with the industry leaders.
Overall, the 2Legit is a good bat, but not for everyone. However, no one can make it work if it can’t stay in one piece. Looking forward to structural changes in 2016.