What is Pitch Recognition Softball Part 1

Softball hitting coaches love to say, “Hitting is hard.” I’m here to tell you that hitting isn’t hard. It’s impossible. Human vision can’t track fast pitches all the way to the bat. Getting square contact on a round ball with a round bat gives no more than a one-inch (2.5 cm) margin of error. And high-level pitches not only travel at speeds up to 70+ miles-per-hour (115 kph) but also move in unpredictable ways due to gravity, spin, Magnus effect, and other forces. It’s hard to argue with Ted Williams’ (the last major leaguer to hit .400) claim that hitting is “the most difficult thing in sport.”

So how do skilled batters not only hit well-pitched softballs but also hit them very hard and very far? It’s all workarounds. Hitters and hitting coaches relentlessly work on swing mechanics to generate bat speed and attack angles necessary to drive the ball. But they all will tell you that mechanics mean little without good timing to deliver the barrel of the bat to the ball at the optimal time and place in the hitting zone.

So where does timing come from? Stance and swing mechanics help hitters get two eyes on the pitcher, minimize head movement, get their front foot down “on time” and launch their swings in synch with the pitcher’s motion. But timing also involves pitch recognition. Good swing mechanics maximize the amount of time (and milliseconds matter) that hitters have to shut down their swing, if needed, or to make in-swing adjustments that get the barrel of the bat to the ball.

Pitch recognition is not as well understood or as frequently coached as swing mechanics. Therefore, pitch recognition is not only an important aspect of hitting but also is a way to gain competitive advantage by improving a part of hitting that your competition (including the guy next to you on the bench) is not. In this article I clarify what pitch recognition is along with why it is important. In a companion article I will get into when, where, and how to train pitch recognition.

What is Pitch Recognition? (It’s probably more complicated than you think)

It helps clarify what pitch recognition is by considering what it is not. Pitch recognition is not vision. Obviously, good vision is valuable for hitting and many major league hitters have 15/20 vision or better. But not all good hitters have superior vision, and not all hitters with superior vision are good hitters. In addition, while vision is correctable, it is not particularly trainable. On the other hand, visual skills such as convergence and divergence are trainable with a variety of devices and computer/smartphone apps (for example, Slow the Game Down and Visual Edge). As important as visual skills are to hitting, however, it is a mistake to assume that training visual skills will automatically improve the perceptual skill of pitch recognition.

Perception is the meaning that you draw from what you see. It’s not “seeing” the pitch so much as it is “reading” the pitch. “Know the story of the pitch, know the story of the [bat] path,” says major league hitting coach John Mallee. The story of the pitch has three chapters, or Zones in this illustration from Harvey Dorfman’s Mental Skills of Baseball (applicable to Softball too):

Zone 1 is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the pitch.  It includes pitcher’s motion, release of the pitch, and first 6-8 feet of ball flight. In this zone, hitters are able to read clues as to the type of pitch being thrown and potential landing spots. The earlier a hitter can accurately guess the type, speed, spin, and trajectory of a pitch, the greater chance of success.

For example, pitchers tend to adjust their body position in conjunction with the release and the ultimate trajectory of the pitch.  Pitchers may lean forward slightly to enhance downward movement and conversely lean backward to enhance the rise of a pitch or actually straighten up when throwing a changeup.  Some pitchers drift to the glove side when throwing a screwball or step across their body toward the arm side to throw a curve ball. 

Other pitch release cues are hand placement including hand inside, behind or outside the ball.  Pitchers put their hand inside the ball (backside of the hand facing the pitchers body internally rotated and in a supinated position) for riseball, screwball and lateral breaking curveball.  Hand inside the ball is the only way to throw bullet spin.  Pitches thrown with the hand behind or outside the ball result in tumble spin for fastball, drop, drop curve, cutter, peel drop change, inverted drop change, invert flip change, horseshoe release change or push release change. 

Contextual clues are crucial to pitch recognition and come from repetitive observations associating these clues.  A hitter must see and actual pitcher with actual pitches occluded to focus the brain to interpret variations with pitches recognized.

 The beginning of Zone 2 is where hitters must initiate their swing. This is based on the pitch cues deciphered in zone 1.  The hitter continues to take in and process visual cues.  But processing takes time and the hitter can only make slight, late swing adjustments based on old information because the ball is moving fast.

Some hitters say they see the spin of the seams in zone 2, some say they don’t.  More likely, hitters see spin clues. For example, some pitchers are taught two seam and four seam fastballs or drops.  The two seamed pitch will show vertical train tracks as the seams align vertically while the ball spins.  The four seamed pitch will appear blurred with some darker color concentrated toward each outer portion of the ball. But that these kinds of pitch clues are highly individual and many hitters can’t verbalize clues that their sub-conscious mind actually use.  

More importantly, zone 2 is when a hitter can see the follow through mechanics of the pitch.  Pitch follow through provides the next for hitters.  Here are a few examples: 

If the pitcher snaps their wrist downward over the top of the ball, the pitch will have tumble spin. 

If the hand finishes on top of their forward thigh, it is usually a power drop, but if the hand continues forward with palm facing down, it is a tumble spin fastball. 

If the hand crosses the forward leg with the thumb down it is a drop curve.

Many pitchers finish their follow through at shoulder height for a rise ball with their pinky finger leading their hand and the index or pointer finger pointing in the direction of the pitch (like shooting a make believe gun or snapping the fingers). 

A horizontally breaking curve ball is most often associated with a “karate chop” finish of the pinky finger side of the hand along the belt line finishing along the front hip with palm facing upward.  Some pitchers also point their index finger on their curveballs.  

 

At high levels, hitters need to commit to their swing in Zone 2 with the pitch just over halfway to the plate.

Zone 3 is the hitting zone. The swing can no longer be halted. Hitters usually move their head and eyes down to the hitting zone as the ball enters Zone 3, but most do not actually see the bat meet the ball. Rather than tracking the ball to contact the head/eye movement is aiming ahead of the pitch like a bow hunter leading his shot. As Dusty Baker said in You Can Teach Hitting, “You hit the pitches with your imagination.”

Again, an illustration from Dorfman’s Mental Skills of Baseball shows the three “plots” that the story of most pitches follow (can be applied to softball):

Hitters’ brains unconsciously and almost instantaneously fill in the dots and mentally picture the shape of a pitch. Hitters automatically know the story of a standard, straight fastball (A) before it leaves Zone one. And their well-trained swing knows the story of the bat path to intercept it. Unfortunately, for hitters, pitchers manipulate the ball to “make strikes look like balls and balls look like strikes.”

This is where hitters’ brains draw upon their deep mental database of pitches to recognize patterns and connect the dots to either lay off the chase pitch (B) or to stay on the freeze pitch because it’s a strike (C). Pitch recognition is reading the story of the pitch as early and as accurately as possible in order to make better swing decisions and swing adjustments. Some hitters use pitch recognition to have good plate discipline – meaning that they swing at strikes and don’t swing at balls. But pitch recognition also is what makes selectively aggressive hitters impossible to pitch to.

When, Where, and How to Train Pitch Recognition

In this article, I covered what pitch recognition is (and isn’t) and why it is associated with the most dangerous and productive hitters. Hitters that aspire to next-level success, whether that’s making varsity as a freshman, playing elite travel ball, being recruited to play in college, or succeeding at the college level greatly increase their chances by consciously and conscientiously working on pitch recognition. And the earlier they start the better. In a companion article, I cover when hitters should start working on pitch recognition (ideally, before they need it), where to work on pitch recognition (team? instructor? facility?), and how hitters can work on and improve their pitch recognition.

References

Mallee, J. The Story of the Pitch; the Story of the Path, lead clinic at John Mallee Major League Hitting Clinics, 2020. https://www.majorleaguehittingclinics.com/

Dorfman, H. A. and Kuehl, K. The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. 1989.

Fadde, P. “The Sixth Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition” (Amazon e-book).  With citations from hitting books by Dusty Baker, Mike Schmidt, and Ted Williams.

https://amzn.to/39stnsD

Read the original Article Here115

What is Pitch Recognition – Baseball Part 1

Baseball hitting coaches love to say, “Hitting is hard.” I’m here to tell you that hitting isn’t hard. It’s impossible. Human vision can’t track any pitch over about 83 miles-per-hour (134 kph) to the bat. Getting square contact on a round ball with a round bat gives no more than a one-inch (2.5 cm) margin of error. And high-level pitches not only travel at speeds up to 100 miles-per-hour (160 kph) but also move in unpredictable ways due to gravity, spin, Magnus effect, and other forces. It’s hard to argue with Ted Williams’ (the last major leaguer to hit .400) claim that hitting is “the most difficult thing in sport.”

So how do skilled batters not only hit well-pitched baseballs but also hit them very hard and very far? It’s all workarounds. Hitters and hitting coaches relentlessly work on swing mechanics to generate bat speed and attack angles necessary to drive the ball. But they all will tell you that mechanics mean little without good timing to deliver the barrel of the bat to the ball at the optimal time and place in the hitting zone.

So where does timing come from? Stance and swing mechanics help hitters get two eyes on the pitcher, minimize head movement, get their front foot down “on time” and launch their swings in synch with the pitcher’s motion. But timing also involves pitch recognition. Good swing mechanics maximize the amount of time (and milliseconds matter) that hitters have to shut down their swing, if needed, or to make in-swing adjustments that get the barrel of the bat to the ball.

Pitch recognition is not as well understood or as frequently coached as swing mechanics. Therefore, pitch recognition is not only an important aspect of hitting but also is a way to gain competitive advantage by improving a part of hitting that your competition (including the guy next to you on the bench) is not. In this article I clarify what pitch recognition is along with why it is important. In a companion article I will get into when, where, and how to train pitch recognition.

What is Pitch Recognition? (It’s probably more complicated than you think)

It helps clarify what pitch recognition is by considering what it is not. Pitch recognition is not vision. Obviously, good vision is valuable for hitting and many major league hitters have 15/20 vision or better. But not all good hitters have superior vision, and not all hitters with superior vision are good hitters. In addition, while vision is correctable, it is not particularly trainable. On the other hand, visual skills such as convergence and divergence are trainable with a variety of devices and computer/smartphone apps (for example, Slow the Game Down and Visual Edge). As important as visual skills are to hitting, however, it is a mistake to assume that training visual skills will automatically improve the perceptual skill of pitch recognition.

Perception is the meaning that you draw from what you see. It’s not “seeing” the pitch so much as it is “reading” the pitch. “Know the story of the pitch, know the story of the [bat] path,” says major league hitting coach John Mallee. The story of the pitch has three chapters, or Zones in this illustration from Harvey Dorfman’s Mental Skills of Baseball:

Zone 1 is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the pitch.  It includes the pitcher’s motion, release of the pitch, and first 10-12 feet of ball flight. In this zone/chapter, hitters are able to read clues as to the type of pitch being thrown and potential landing spots. The earlier a hitter can accurately guess the type, speed, spin, and trajectory of a pitch, the greater chance of success.

For example, a traditional 12-to-6 curveball requires the pitcher’s fingers to come over the ball to “pull the shade” – which hitters can pick up as a “skinny wrist” or karate chop movement.

Getting good at reading pitches is not something you are born with.  It takes 1000s, even 10,000s of pitches to develop. 

Mike Schmidt said that he could pick up sliders from left-handed pitchers by the “out and around” trajectory of the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand. But he couldn’t pick up the same clue from a same-handed pitcher (right-handed for Schmidt) .

The beginning of Zone 2 is where hitters must initiate their swing.  This is based on the pitch cues deciphered in zone 1.  The hitter continues to take in and process visual cues.  But processing takes time and the hitter can only make slight, late swing adjustments based on old information because the ball is moving fast.

Some hitters say they see the spin of the seams in zone 2, some say they don’t. More likely, hitters see spin clues. For instance, many hitters report seeing a red or white, quarter or dime-sized “hole” in sliders. The visual clue is caused by the seam pattern of sliders rotating on a tilted axis while the ball is moving straight. Picture a spinning bicycle wheel at an angle so that you can see the hub of the wheel with the spokes rotating around it. The hub is the hole. Hitters also report seeing color cues, such as a 4-seam fastball appearing redder than a 2-seam fastball. Some hitters say that split-finger fastballs appear to tumble. But that these kinds of pitch clues are highly individual and many hitters can’t verbalize clues that their sub-conscious mind actually use.

At high levels, hitters need to commit fully (no more adjustments) to their swing in Zone 2 with the pitch just over halfway to the plate.

Zone 3 is the hitting zone. The swing can no longer be halted. Hitters usually move their head and eyes down to the hitting zone as the ball enters Zone 3, but most do not actually see the bat meet the ball. Rather than tracking the ball to contact the head/eye movement is aiming ahead of the pitch like a bow hunter leading his shot. As Dusty Baker said in You Can Teach Hitting, “You hit the slider with your imagination.”

Again, an illustration from Dorfman’s Mental Skills of Baseball shows the three “plots” that the story of most pitches follow:

Hitters’ brains unconsciously and almost instantaneously fill in the dots and mentally picture the shape of a pitch. With practice hitters automatically know the story of a standard, straight fastball (A) before it leaves Zone one. And their well-trained swing knows the story of the bat path to intercept it. Unfortunately, for hitters, pitchers manipulate the ball to, as Greg Maddux said, “make strikes look like balls and balls look like strikes.”

This is where hitters’ brains draw upon their deep mental database of pitches to recognize patterns and connect the dots to either lay off the chase pitch (B) or to stay on the freeze pitch because it’s a strike (C). Pitch recognition is reading the story of the pitch as early and as accurately as possible in order to make better swing decisions and swing adjustments. Some hitters use pitch recognition to have good plate discipline – meaning that they swing at strikes and don’t swing at balls. But pitch recognition also is what makes selectively aggressive hitters such as Ted Williams, Albert Pujols, and Juan Soto impossible to pitch to.

When, Where, and How to Train Pitch Recognition

In this article, I covered what pitch recognition is (and isn’t) and why it is associated with the most dangerous and productive hitters. Hitters that aspire to next-level success, whether that’s making varsity as a freshman, playing elite travel ball, being recruited to play in college, or advancing in professional baseball greatly increase their chances by consciously and conscientiously working on pitch recognition. And the earlier they start the better. In a companion article, I cover when hitters should start working on pitch recognition (ideally, before they need it), where to work on pitch recognition (team? instructor? facility?), and how hitters can work on and improve their pitch recognition.

References

Mallee, J. The Story of the Pitch; the Story of the Path, lead clinic at John Mallee Major League Hitting Clinics, 2020. https://www.majorleaguehittingclinics.com/

Dorfman, H. A. and Kuehl, K. The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. 1989.

Fadde, P. “The Sixth Tool: Training Baseball Pitch Recognition” (Amazon e-book).  With citations from hitting books by Dusty Baker, Mike Schmidt, and Ted Williams.

https://amzn.to/39stnsD

Read the original Article Here

Training Pitch Recognition for Next-Level Baseball & Softball Hitting

At high levels of baseball pitchers are not only adding speed to their pitches but also “designing” their breaking pitches to move in more extreme and unpredictable ways. The best way for hitters to combat pitch design and velocity is by recognizing pitches as early as possible. In a companion article, I described pitch recognition as hitters’ ability to read clues in a pitcher’s motion, release of the pitch, and the first third of ball flight in order to predict if, when, and where a pitch will enter the strike zone. Better pitch recognition leads to better swing decisions and better swing adjustments, resulting in higher On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage. This article looks at how to train pitch recognition.

All hitters that want to play in college or beyond should include pitch recognition in their training routines from as early as 12-13 years old and on through their highest levels, including major league baseball. As with strength and running speed, some people naturally have more pitch recognition skill than others but anybody can get better and thereby improve their hitting.

How to train pitch recognition?

Hitting instructors and coaches have used technologies such as batting tees and pitching machines for decades, and many now add technologies* including bat sensors (such as Blast Motion), radar-based bat and ball flight analyzers (such as Rapsodo and HitTrax), virtual reality batting simulators (such as Win Reality) and video pitch-recognition apps (such as GameSense).

Some of these technologies are used in a training facility or team context, with guidance from a coach or instructor. Individual players also can use some of these technologies at home – especially the new technologies for training pitch recognition. Virtual reality has improved in technical quality and become much more affordable, although still requiring a VR headset. GameSense is played on a computer or smartphone and uses the video-occlusion method in which players see pitches, from a batter’s view, that are cut off to show more or less ball flight. Players guess the type of pitch and ball or strike. Both of these technologies have “coach in the box” guidance for at-home players.

How does pitch recognition fit in a training program for hitters?

One of the main ways that technologies can impact training is by “making the invisible visible.” Once a number is attached to an outcome, then instructors and players can make small changes in pitching or hitting movements in order to change the number. For example, facilities such as Driveline measure spin rate and other aspects of ball movement to design pitches. For pitch recognition, sports researchers invented the video-occlusion method to measure athletes’ ability to read early clues in the movement of an opponent. A serious hitting training program should include baseline testing of pitch recognition (Standardized Recognition Test) in addition to testing visual skills (such as Visual Edge), bat speed, hit ball exit velocity, and body movements using tools such as K-Vest.  Measuring multiple components of hitting reveals what need work and often these measurements show improvement in a component skill even before it shows up in game batting statistics.

Adapting batting cage and bullpen drills

Technology tools that hitters use on their own are most effective when they are integrated with batting cage and bullpen stand-in drills. Hitters should stand in any chance they get when a teammate or, even better, a next-level pitcher is throwing a bullpen. Hitters should always wear a helmet and should hold but not swing a bat.

 

Of course, bullpen stand is not new. Often, coaches send hitters to the pen to track pitches. But pitch recognition is not pitch tracking. Visually tracking pitches all the way to the catcher’s mitt is a natural action that doesn’t need specific training. On the other hand, pitch recognition that focuses on the pitcher’s motion, release point, and the first few feet of ball flight is not natural and requires specific training. You turn bullpen tracking into Bullpen Pitch Recognition drill by giving the hitter a goal, such as recognizing Fastballs. The hitter must call out loud “Yes” for Fastball and “No” for any other pitch before the ball hits the catcher’s mitt. When hitters are doing it correctly their eyes stay on the pitcher rather than following the ball to the catcher.

In the batting cage, instructors and coaches can add elements of pitch recognition to otherwise routine batting tee, toss, and pitching machine drills. For example, in a Two-Ball Side Toss drill the batter hits the higher ball (representing a Fastball) unless the coach calls, “Change” or “Split” or “Curve.” Then the hitter adjusts and hits the lower ball. In a front toss drill hitters typically hit every pitch. But if the coach calls out “Change” or “Split” or “Curve” then the hitter shuts down his swing, even though the pitch looks to be a strike – just like the chase pitches that hitters get in two-strike counts!

The side and front toss drills are more for impulse control than for true pitch recognition. There are two drills that do involve reading actual pitches. If a coach is able to throw a variety of pitches, then the coach can pick two pitches that often work off of each other, such as fastball and changeup. Some coaches have batters verbalize, “yes, yes, YES” and hit a fastball or “yes, yes, NO” and take the chase pitch. It is not necessary for the coach to execute pitches such as Curves, Sliders, and Splits but only needs to use an appropriate hand motion to release the pitch, such as palming a changeup.

Some coaches put colored dots on balls for front pitch or to put through a pitching machine. Again, the coach can name the pitches: Green is fastball (swing); blue is changeup or other chase pitch (take). Along with these standard batting cage drills, Net-Occlusion Drill adapts the video-occlusion method of cutting off pitches. A coach, parent, or teammate stands behind a net across the batting tunnel and throws pitches into the net. The batter hits off the tee if the “pitcher” throws a fastball and taking the pitch if the pitcher shows a different pitch release. While all of these drills start with a “swing at fastballs; take others” approach, the coach can change the goal at any point. It’s not a game simulation, so it’s fine to set a goal of hitting only Curveballs. The goal matters less than forcing the hitter to make a recognition and decision instead of automatically swinging at every pitch.

These are only examples of standard bullpen and batting cage drills that can have an element of pitch recognition added. Batting cage drills for training pitch recognition can get much more complex, but just adding an element of pitch recognition to routine basic drills helps hitters can help hitters build the next-level hitting skill of pitch recognition.

*Technology products mentioned in this article are not intended as endorsements but rather to give players, parents, coaches, and instructors examples of tools.

** Drill videos are from Dr. Fadde’s e-book https://amzn.to/3zXsPpv


Read the original article HERE

Real Video vs Virtual Reality

pitch recognition virtual reality VR

Real Video

Virtual Reality

Pitch Recognition is not a new concept, but its’ finally getting the attention it deserves. Hitters need pitch recognition.  Fortunately, pitch recognition is a skill you can develop. 

 

So how do you develop pitch recognition?  You’ve got to see 1000s of pitches.  Technology like GameSense and Virtual Reality (VR) provide the ability to see more pitches.  But VR doesn’t really train pitch recognition and could have negative effects on a hitter.

Safe

Some evidence on VR points to the dangers of training in a virtual environment.  That’s because VR is not precise.  Performing sport relevant actions (e.g. swinging a bat trying to hit a virtual ball) reinforces virtual, not real world perceptions. VR doesn’t represent accurate kinetic movements of real life opponents, negating key perceptual cues (e.g. a pitcher throwing a curve ball looks different than a fastball but VR pitches all look the same). 

 

Scientific

GameSense uses video-occlusion to test and train pitch recognition.  Video occlusion was developed in sports science labs over 40 years ago and is still the gold standard for testing the perceptual cognitive skills of experts.  

3D

VR gives users the illusion of depth perception or 3D vision.  However, depth perception has it’s limits.  One limitation is our inability to detect depth perception for objects greater than 20ft (6 m) away from us. But pitch recognition happens when the ball is still more than 30ft (9 m) away from home plate. So a batter has no 3D cues when having to guess the pitch type, location and velocity.

Realistic

Nothing beats a real pitcher, throwing real pitches.  GameSense looks real because it is.  You can see the grip, the arm angle.  You can even see a grimace on the pitcher’s face.  You need Photo Realistic images because pitchers are giving clues that a computer avatar does not provide. 

 

Convenient

VR requires head mounted displays units that are clunky, expensive, limiting and even cause sickness.  GameSense can be done on a phone, tablet or computer. You can even project it on to a TV or wall to create a life-size image.  

 

Simple, Safe & Sound

Virtual Reality is cool.  And it seems like it should work.  But looks can be deceiving.  VR is good for seeing the shapes of pitches.  It doesn’t help with pitch recognition because the graphics are not realistic enough and don’t represent the perceptual cues given by a pitcher.  Further, 3D images don’t apply to pitch recognition because it’s too far away.  A batter has to make their initial swing decisions using only 2D cues.  

Bottom line…Video-Occlusion and VR are different tools.

But only Video-Occlusion is Simple…Safe…and Scientifically Sound. 

Softball Testimonials

Our softball customers are happy to happy to tell you about GameSense and how it’s helped their hitters improve their pitch recognition. 

Can ‘Athletic Intelligence’ Be Measured?

Teams in the NFL and other leagues believe performance on a tablet can predict success in the real game. 

Two N.F.L. draft prospects sat on a couch on the shaded patio outside a hotel room in St. Petersburg, Fla. They were waiting to take another test. They had only been in town a couple of days, and already this was their sixth test. Each time it was the same routine: Go to this room at this time, ask for this person, do whatever he tells you. No one said what the tests were for, and so far the prospects had never been told how they did.


READ HOW gameSense’s own Dr. Len Zaichkowsky is helping bring cognitive skills to the forefront of sports.

Three Must-Have Cognitive Skills for Fast-Paced Sports

Eric Rynston-Lobel, a young journalism student at Northwestern University recently published an interesting article, “Hitting a baseball is the hardest skill to pull off in sports. Here’s why,” in the magazine Popular Science. We asked our own, Leonard Zaichkowsky, PH.D., and gameSense Co-Founder and Director of Sport Science to add his insights on this topic. His thoughts are below…

Through his scientific research and interviews with experts in physics, Dr. David Kagan, neuroscience, Dr. Paul Sajda, and hitting coaches, Eric accurately portrayed the fact that the skill of hitting a baseball is complex and unlike any other sport skill. It involves more than sheer physical athleticism. In his article, he points out the classical example of how the great Michael Jordon, who ruled the basketball world, failed in his attempt to play professional baseball. Jordan failed primarily because he could not execute one specific skill: hit the 90-mile an hour baseball. This reminded me of when I had my graduate students read a motor learning explanation of the Jordan phenomenon in the book “Why Michael  Couldn’t Hit: And Other Tales of the Neurology of Sports,” written by Harold Klawans. 

Like Professor Sajda, I studied, taught, and wrote about the brain processes that are involved in rapid decision-making by athletes. Sajda, according to Eric, believes exceptional hitters have two important cognitive qualities: 

  1. The ability to stop themselves from swinging at certain pitches in a fraction of a second.
  2. The ability to identify pitches.

I call the first point “impulse control or response override”, an important cognitive skill to be sure.  But the most important attribute hitters must have is the ability to identify pitches or what gameSense refers to as pitch recognition.  In the book I co-authored with Dan Peterson, “The Playmakers Advantage”, published in 2018, we discuss the three critical perceptual-cognitive skills needed in fast-paced sports or in hitting of a baseball or softball.  They are: 

  1. The ability to visually focus on and read important cues early. For example, great hitters with their excellent visual acuity learn to read a pitcher’s grip of the ball and their release point.

  2. Anticipate and decide the type of pitch and location.  If a baseball pitcher throws at 90 miles per hour, from 55 feet the hitter needs to decide in .440 seconds whether the pitch will be a strike or a ball; to swing or not swing (where impulse control is needed); and decide whether the pitch is going to be a fastball, breaking ball or changeup, etc. Hitting a fastpitch softball is even more difficult.  A 70 mph fastball released  37 feet from home plate requires .35 seconds of reaction time for the batter or 20% less time.

  3. Execute the skill of putting the bat on the ball.  All of this perceptual-cognitive activity plus muscle/limb movement to hit the ball on the sweet spot of the bat takes less than half a second.  In sum, hitting a baseball or softball requires incredible coordination of the hitter’s eyes, brain, nervous system, and muscles of the body.

Until recently, the only way hitters
could develop this important perceptual cognitive skill was through getting at-bats
in a batting cage or in game situations, which is not an efficient method of
training. Today, the visual temporal occlusion method of brain training
developed by GameSense Sports,
allows hitters at all levels to get many “at bats” by simply viewing a variety
of pitchers on their mobile phone, iPad, or desktop computer. 

About Leonard Zaichkowsky, PH.D., gameSense Co-Founder and Director of Sport Science

Dr. Zaichkowsky is a widely known sport and performance scientist whose specialty is the psychophysiology of human performance. For 37 years, he was a professor at Boston University with a joint appointment in the School of Education and School of Medicine.

He has published 6 books and more than 100 scientific papers on sport psychology, sport science, biofeedback, and research methods and made more than 300 presentations world-wide. Currently, Len is a science consultant for a number of sports, medical, military, and business organizations. Dr. Zaichkowsky is a licensed psychologist, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), and 2016 recipient of APA’s award for “Distinguished Contributions to Professional Practice”. He is a past-president and Fellow of the Association for Applied Sport  Psychology (1997-99), a former member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, and currently section editor on psychology for the International Journal of Health & Sport Science. Len has consulted with U.S., Canadian, and Australian Olympic organizations, Major League Baseball, NBA, NFL, NHL, Spanish World Cup Soccer, Real Madrid, and numerous other elite sport organizations.

Coach’s Corner: Coach Gentile

Hello Softball family! 

 

I’m Coach Gentile or Coach Courtney. I am a former Division 1 softball coach and I am the Softball Director and your Customer Success Specialist here at gameSense. 

 

Like Coach P, who you met last week, I grew up with a bat and ball in my hands. In some capacity, I have played every position on the field; but pitching, 1B, and OF are the ones that I played in College at The Ohio State University. 

 

I realized when I was about 13 that I wanted to coach softball in some capacity. I always tried to lead vocally and by example on the field. It wasn’t until I got to be a Junior in college did I really want to pursue coaching at the collegiate level. You are at your most vulnerable and influential years from 18-22 and I wanted to be that coach that could help mentor not only on the field but off as well. I’ve just recently started coaching travel ball again and more passionate than ever to be that person for these young women to look to and to teach them how to be independent, empowered young women and to teach them what it will take to get to the next level of their careers in softball. 

 

I am grateful to be a part of this gameSense family as I truly believe technology and pitch recognition is going to be the wave of the future here in our game that we all love so much. I wish I would have had it when I played!