March 8, 2021 at 9:45am
Sydney McReynolds '19

Pitching and hitting devices enhance practices to improve performance

If there's anything certain about Illinois weather it's that it is ever-changing and unpredictable, and this February has been the proof. While it may feel like spring now, two weeks ago Decatur, Ill., was under 8-10 inches of snow. For spring semester sports like softball and baseball, weather like this normally halts regularly scheduled practices. Now, thanks to updated facilities and state-of-the-art technology, Millikin baseball and softball can continue during the winter months.

Unable to practice at the Workman Family Baseball Field, which recently opened in the fall of 2019, the teams turned to the Rapsodo pitching and hitting technology they were able to purchase through funding from donors. Rapsodo designs tracking devices for sports such as baseball, softball and golf, and provides players and coaches immediate feedback on their pitching or hitting depending on the device's intended purpose.

"[Baseball] and softball were able to purchase two pitching Rapsodos and one hitting Rapsodo that we share. The Rapsodo is basically a radar gun and camera in a single device. It measures your spin efficiency, strike percentages, velocity, and there's also video that you can use from it," said Millikin University Head Baseball Coach Brandon Townsend.

Townsend said it's typical for baseball and softball practices to be hindered because of the weather a few times per season, but until they had the pitching and hitting analysis devices they had to rely solely on looks. "These devices allow us to measure [that] and that's the competitive side of it," he said.

These devices not only allow players and coaches to track their practices, but it stores all of the information so they can use the data to find areas of improvement. "It's basically like a real-life video game for us where we get to track everything from our pitchers, and every swing is tracked from our hitters and then it all gets stored into the database and we can pull it up, use it as information for our guys, teaching tools and to also compete within our team," Townsend said. "It's not like every single day we use every single bit of data, but we pull up what we need or what we're trying to achieve that day."

Along with the Rapsodo devices, Townsend says they are very thankful for their new facility giving them the ability to be outside on the field often before other teams can.

"We're lucky with the donors and everything we have to be able to [practice] and purchase devices like these to improve our teams," he said. "The turf that we have allows us to get out earlier than most people, which just gives us the best of both worlds."

The team utilizes these devices to improve upon their specific skills, and it is showing. This past weekend the Millikin baseball team opened their season with a win over Marian University. While they are very proud of this win, Coach Townsend and the team have learned to appreciate the small things after not being able to play baseball last year.

"It's been a year since we've been able to coach a Millikin baseball team so that's rare. We're all going through this together," he said.

The team is ready to take on what this new season throws at them, and because of the technology like the Rapsodo devices, they are prepared in every way. Townsend thinks. "[We're] going to have a lot of changes and the team in our conference that handles that adversity and changes the best is going to be the team that ends up on top."

For the full Millikin baseball and softball schedules, visit athletics.millikin.edu.