Growing up I learned to play baseball the same way millions of youngsters have learned and continue to learn, by playing the game. The most difficult part of learning the game was the mental part. Hitting, catching, and throwing the ball are physical efforts that you can master through repetition. What to do in certain situations while on defense has to be taught and learned through study. That takes time and seldom is there enough practice time to teach all aspects of that part of the game.
Baseball Academics offers youth coaches and fathers a way to expose their charges to all kinds of defensive situations without having to try and duplicate them on the field. This free universal app requires iOS 7.0 or later. A premium upgrade with a monthly subscription will be added soon. More on that in a bit.
Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost was involved in the development of the app. Users choose one of the nine defensive positions and the app offers a sequence of baseball situations for the user to decide where he should throw the ball once it is hit to him. These situations will vary according to how many outs in the inning, where and how many baserunners are on base. For example if you are the shortstop, the game is scoreless in the fourth inning with a runner on third and less than two outs where do you throw, home or first?
Each training session runs thirty seconds and the aim is for the user to make decisions in as many situations as you can during that time. Users will see the diamond with the runners and tap the base they think is the right one. To master the exercise users need to think quickly just like in a real game. After you finish the sequence you can check to find out how many you got correct and how long it took you to decide.
The Premium addition will be released by the end of February. In this edition of Baseball Academics, users will be able to advance from the first level up to level seven. As the user advances the situations they face change. In addition to how many runners and where they are, users will also have to figure in what inning the game is in and what the current score is. These factors can often change the decision players have to make. For a pitcher in level 7, there are almost 12,000 different scenarios possible.
In the Premium version, players receive a Baseball Academic Rating or BAR. The rating is a compilation of the users' accuracy and speed of response. The upgrade carries a US$10 per month subscription fee. According to developers they may launch another method to advance through to higher levels for a single purchase but that version will not track and record a user's performance. The premium version does offer that service. The goal is for coaches, college recruiters and even professional scouts to be able to use this data in evaluating younger players who want to play in college or become professionals. It also will help local coaches track the development of their players. The developers want to establish a standard so users can see how they rank against comparable age players locally and around the country.
The overall concept and execution of Baseball Academics is right on target for teaching young baseball players to think about situations and be prepared when they field a batted ball. The developers goal of setting a defensive standard for comparing players is a tough one to get everyone to accept but is worth their efforts.
The free version of Baseball Academics can be useful to all young players and is worth a look. The Premium version as it stands now with its US$10 a month fee is aimed at serious players, those that hope to advance to be good high school and college players, or even have aspirations of playing professionally. Overall I think the app offers a unique approach and is one that coaches and parents should consider if their youngsters want to play baseball at a high level.