While baseball’s foundational history is contested, the core of the game has remained largely unaltered for over a century. Take a stick, hit a ball, then run to a base before the other player can throw the ball there. The bats, gloves, and shoes may have gotten more advanced, but everything else remains almost identical to the good ol’ days.
What has changed is the entire world around the game. Your toaster has microprocessors and your fridge has Wi-Fi. The tires in your car buzz your phone when they’re low in air. But I don’t decry such advances—the proliferation of wireless connectivity means we can put sensors in our baseball bats and turn an activity like swinging at pitches into an exercise in advanced telemetry.
The Zepp Baseball sensor is a neon yellow device that attaches to the handle end of a bat with a silicone harness. Once paired with your phone using Bluetooth, it relays a mix of data after every swing. After contact, you can see bat speed, hand speed, time to impact, vertical angle at impact, and the attack angle of the swing. If you set your phone on a tripod, you can capture video at the same time of the swing, using the sensor as an automatic shutter for the phone’s camera.
Captured data is great, but the real magic of the device comes after logging the swings. Zepp’s app analyzes the inputs, then prepares a specific analysis of your form. It even suggests a training regimen to improve your mechanics.
To test the Zepp, I used it with the best set of guinea pigs I could find: my son’s Little League team. I’m an inexperienced coach, and the gadget has served as a fantastic training aid.
Coaches can add an entire roster of players, complete with their specific bats and player stats. It’s a simple option to switch players in the app when the next kid puts the Zepp on his or her bat. The app even logs specific stats that chart each player’s different goals. After every practice, parents can log in and see their kids’ stats, along with the individualized training plans that are created for their child.
The only difficult part about using the device is the keeping the kids focused on the mechanics of the swing and not just checking their bat speed. Every kid is looking for ways to one-up the previous batter during practice.
Fastening the Zepp to a new bat isn’t difficult. The kids can manage remove it, but I was usually the one who had to put it on. All the tugging does seem to put some wear on the harness—after switching it 10 or 15 times a night, you can see why online reviews recommend stocking up on additional mounts. A new harness costs about $15 at most retailers.
The Zepp Baseball sensor itself is $150, which seems steep for an individual player—especially a Little Leaguer who’s not quite sure this whole baseball thing is actually as fun as dad says it is. For older players in high school and beyond who can afford it, the Zepp is a fantastic piece of tech.
As a Little League team practice device, it is worth every penny if you can find a way to split the cost up among the parents. The ability for coaches and parents to get feedback on a overabundance of data points is a huge benefit, and it’s especially helpful for the kids to get personalized suggestions for improving their swings.
I’m almost ashamed to admit that we’re using it, as I feel it gives us an advantage over the teams who aren’t collecting as much data as we are. But before I judge myself too harshly, let’s see if we can actually win some games.