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Anywhere Ball – good indoor practice ball
Insider Bat – can be useful but may encourage bat drag
Swing Rail – can be useful but may encourage pushing the knob
Total Control Hole Ball YH74 – great outdoor warmup or practice ball
HeadCoach Throw Trainer – do not buy
Throw It Right Baseball Trainer – do not buy
Anywhere Ball (retail $39.99/dozen but you can find it cheaper on Amazon) Recommended!
The Anywhere Ball is made of soft synthetic foam and is the size of a baseball. It is very lightweight, about one ounce, and weighs about 50% more than a typical wiffle ball (30 grams versus 20 grams). It compresses easily and, thus, provides immediate feedback on miss-hits. The Anywhere Ball also does not bounce around as much as a wiffle ball. It seems to be great for an indoor space. There are better practice balls to use outdoors, particularly the Total Control Hole Ball YH74 (see the review on this page).
Insider Bat ($49) Neutral
The Insider Bat is a hitting aid intended to promote good top half mechanics. To hit the ball squarely with the Insider Bat, you cannot cast the “barrel” (which is a flat paddle) or roll your wrist early. By repeatedly hitting the ball squarely, you will develop proper muscle memory. The main issue I have with the Insider Bat is that it can encourage bat drag. Sliding the rear elbow in front of the hands actually makes it easier to keep the “barrel” well behind the hands so you can hit the ball squarely. If you do use the Insider Bat, make sure the batter is slotting his rear elbow correctly.
Swing Rail ($29.99) Neutral
The Swing Rail is a device that includes a strap with a loop that attaches to the rear bicep and hook (or “rail”) that attaches to the bat just above the hands. If the batter’s hands begin to cast, it will cause the loop’s Velcro strap to come apart. If the batter’s hands stay “inside the ball,” the rail will slide out of the loop during the approach. The primary concern I have with the Swing Rail is that it can encourage batters to push the knob with their hands in order to get the rail to slide out of the loop smoothly. If you use the Swing Rail, make sure you are keeping your hands connected as you slot the rear elbow.
Total Control Hole Ball YH74 ($43.95/dozen) Highly recommended!
The Total Control Hole Ball YH74 is a light weight synthetic rubber/plastic wiffle ball, It is the size of a baseball. It weights about 2.5 ounces and is 3.5 times heavier than a typical wiffle ball (70 ounces versus 20 ounces). The Total Control Ball is very pliable and easy to compress. It is great for warming up before a game (much better than standard wiffle balls). Because the ball has some weight to it, you can throw overhand to batters with some velocity and the wind will usually not affect the flight of the ball. If batters are hitting from the foul line, the ball will generally stay in your half of the outfield. If you get hit by the Total Control Ball, it might sting a little, but it is infinitely much safer than a baseball.
HeadCoach Throw Trainer ($25) DO NOT BUY (promotes unhealthy mechanics)
The HeadCoach Throw Trainer is a device with a plastic extension that attaches to the baseball cap. It provides feedback when the throwing arm gets too close to the pitcher or thrower’s head during the throwing motion. By forcing the throwing hand to remain outside the throwing elbow (to avoid hitting the extension), it promotes two dangerous disconnections, elevated distal humerus and forearm flyout.
On the product’s homepage, it says “two things are indisputable when it comes to the proper mechanics. 1. A player’s elbow should be at or slightly above shoulder height, and 2. The wrist must be outside of the elbow. If the wrist is inside the elbow it forces the hand into an unnatural throwing position, and the only way to compensate for the incorrect hand position is to drop the elbow.” The problem is both these claims are disputed as dangerous by many pitching instructors including Tom House and Ron Wolforth.
First, when the elbow is above the shoulder it creates a problem called “elevated distal humerus,” which adds stress to the shoulder and/or elbow.
Second, when does the wrist get “inside” the elbow? When pitching (or throwing anything harder than a toss), the arm slots so that the wrist and arm are basically level with the shoulders. The wrist cannot get inside the elbow at release. If they are talking about having the ball cocked with the wrist inside the elbow just before layback, that is actually what you want to happen. Otherwise, you have a problem called “forearm flyout,” which puts unnecessary stress on the arm.
There is a video of kids throwing with this device on the HeadCoach “How It Works” page, Almost all throw with an elevated distal humerus and forearm flyout when they wear the device. Many pitching instructors and researchers blame these types of disconnections for much of the arm pain and injuries occurring to pitchers from the MLB down to youth baseball. Do not buy this product.
Throw It Right Baseball Trainer ($23.40) DO NOT BUY (puts unnecessary stress on the arm)
The Throw It Right Baseball trainer is a baseball-sized device with slots for the fore and middle fingers and a short rod extending out both sides. It trains pitchers to turn the throwing hand 180 degrees away from the head during the delivery. The problem is the device forces the player to put his or her throwing arm in a dangerous position.
I watched the Throw It Right instructional video on Youtube. Teaching kids to show or point the ball to second base places unnecessary stress on the elbow and puts your child at risk of injury. There is simply no reason to do this. The gadget tries to train kids by making them put the pointer and middle fingers in slots. However, this does not mean the thumb will be positioned correctly. (Also, kids with small hands may not be ready to throw the ball in this position.) Finally, the video misinterprets the towel drill. Its primary purpose is timing, not extension. There is, as well, a real question about how effective the towel drill is anyway.
Do not rely on this gadget (and its video) to teach your kid how to throw or pitch the ball correctly. It could actually hurt your child’s development and create elbow problems. Do not buy this product.