Batting practice goes indoors with video help in Manchester
By ROGER BROWN New Hampshire Union Leader
Cameron Evans of Bow and the Bobcats U-12 team, swings away and his ball shows up on video from the HitTrax system at Ultimate Sports Academy in Manchester on Tuesday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
Kevin Gray, owner of Ultimate Sports Academy, helps Evan Provost of Bow and the Bobcats U-12 team, with the HitTrax system at Ultimate Sports Academy in Manchester on Tuesday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
Indoor baseball workouts don’t have to be mundane. Not if you’re using HitTrax at the Ultimate Sports Academy in Manchester.
HitTrax is a data capture and simulation system that has taken off-season training to another level by providing a player with instant feedback following a session in the batting cage. That feedback analyzes tendencies, and quickly identifies a hitter’s strengths and weaknesses.
Here’s how it works: Each hitting session is recorded on camera. After each ball is hit, data is transferred to a screen outside the batting area that shows the batter the ball’s trajectory as well as how hard it was hit.
Kevin Gray, the general manager at the Ultimate Sports Academy, said his facility has been using HitTrax for about a year.
“We were the first facility in New Hampshire to install it,” Gray, a former sportswriter at the New Hampshire Union Leader, said. “I had never heard of it until I saw it at a demo. Right away I knew I had to have it. For kids who are locked indoors, it turns (hitting) into live outdoor simulation.”
HItTrax also brings a level of entertainment value to a session in the batting cage since those who use it can select a variety of professional stadiums for his or her hitting session. If a player chooses Fenway Park, for example, in addition to providing performance metrics on each ball hit, HitTrax will also show the batter if the ball dropped in for a single or cleared the wall in left field.
“It’s hard to argue with numbers, and what I love is the immediate data,” said former Southern New Hampshire University infielder Mike Mastroberti, who now plays for the Can-Am League’s Ottawa Champions and trains at the Ultimate Sports Academy. “You can learn from what you did wrong.
“It’s like hitting outside — simple as that. It’s like taking batting practice on the field because you can see the flight of the ball.”
HitTrax also brings another level of competition to the batting cage because it can be used to simulate games — every pitch is recorded as a ball or strike, and it determines if balls put in play are hits or outs — or to create games of Home Run Derby.
“The thing we always stress in exit velocity,” Gray said. “Every swing something is on the line. It makes you compete harder.”
Exeter High School’s Cody Morissette, Bedford High School’s Grant Lavigne and Dakota Mulcay of Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., are the high school players who have produced the best exit velocity using HitTrax at the Ultimate Sports Academy (99 mph).
Gray said HitTrax is a valuable tool regardless of a player’s age or competitive level. He also said that in addition to helping baseball and softball hitters, HitTrax can benefit pitchers as well.
“Pitchers can have a measureable bullpen,” he explained. “It will show velocity and exactly when the ball was breaking and how much.”
Three players who use HitTrax at the Ultimate Sports Academy — Marcus Soucia (Marlboro), Luke Ramsey (Concord) and Cameron Olivo (Swanzey) — were invited to compete in the 11th Annual World Power Showcase at Marlins Park in Miami last month. The event features a Home Run Derby and an all-star game for players in various age groups. Soucia competed at the 14U level, and Ramsey and Olivo both competed with 12U players.
“It’s a useful tool because of all the metrics, and it’s become very popular here,” Gray said. “Living in New Hampshire, I knew this was something that was going to change the way we train.”