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Quality At-Bats with USD Coach Brad Marcelino

Quality At-Bats with USD Coach Brad Marcelino

As the Assistant Baseball Coach at the University of San Diego and a longtime director of youth baseball development, Brad Marcelino is making his mark on both the Southern California and national baseball scenes.

This spring is Marcelino’s sixth season with the 19th ranked Toreros, where he serves as the Hitting Coach, Outfield Coach, and Base Running Coach. From 2013 through 2015, Marcelino coached three consecutive first round MLB Draft picks – including Chicago Cubs All-Star and World Series Champion Kris Bryant.

This past summer, Marcelino was also selected to coach the USA Baseball 14-Under Southwest Region team in the National Teams Identification Series (NTIS) in Cary, NC. Marcelino has been heavily involved in youth development and is the founder of the North County (San Diego) Mavericks high school/college development program, which focuses on development of academics, character, and baseball skills.

Blast Baseball recently sat down with Marcelino to talk about training and how to improve the mental and physical skills necessary for hitters to have quality at-bats.

A MENTAL EDGE

Marcelino’s training methods emphasize developing and fine-tuning a player’s mental approach to the game. Since so much of a player’s performance on the field and in the batter’s box involves extreme focus and discipline, this emphasis helps lay the groundwork for success.

“We talk a lot about the mental side of the game, having a mental edge and performing at the time when it matters most,” said Marcelino. “That’s one of the big things that we do, and I think it really takes our players to the next level.”

Marcelino used his former college pupil, current World Series Hero & NL MVP Kris Bryant, as an example of mental preparation translating to big-time success on the field and at the plate.

“Kris Bryant, and some of these other guys who have been high-round draft picks, they really buy into the mental game,” said Marcelino. “At USD, that consists of visualization for the first 10 minutes of practice, where we take our players through certain aspects of practice and their performance, and just their life. They’re much more productive at practice after we take the time to do that.”

MIND OVER BATTING AVERAGE

Marcelino believes that while starting each practice with mental preparation and visualization is important, so is being willing to accept failure – at least by the conventional measure of success vs. failure, a hitter’s batting average. Baseball is not an easy sport. Understanding and accepting that it’s hard to get hits at any level of the game is key to a strong mental approach.

“We stress from day one that we’re detached from any batting average,” said Marcelino. “You have to understand that you can do everything right in a batter’s box, and on that day, your average could go down. Getting that ingrained into the hitters early, when they first arrive, is huge. You can’t base your success on average. You have to base your success on quality at-bats, which is a big deal for us.”

Just as Marcelino stresses to his hitters not to get caught up in batting averages, he cautions them not to fall prey to the concept of “being in a slump” when a hitter is not putting together quality at-bats.

“I’m the hitting coach, so obviously I hate that term,” said Marcelino. “We make adjustments and we figure out ways to fix things individually, because there’s certain keys to their individual swing that maybe can get them feeling better. A ‘slump’ is when they’re chasing hits. They’re not controlling what they can control. We have four cornerstones that we build for them when they walk to the plate. We want them to control those parts of the game. If they do that and they’re more stable in their thought process, in their preparation, in their visualization before practice or before the game – then the ‘slump’ goes away.”

AN INDIVIDUAL TOUCH

Pairing that strong mental approach with smart adjustments at the plate is where a hitter can find true success – and start to rack up both quality at-bats and hits.

For Marcelino, this is where Blast Baseball 360 plays a role in preparing hitters for success at the plate. He recognizes that hitting is in many ways individualistic – and Blast can help each hitter build and improve their individual swing.

“There are certain checkpoints that have to happen within your swing, and that’s known, but you have your own individual signature on how you hit.”

“We’re trying to teach guys how to hit, not just how to swing,” said Marcelino. “That’s why I think Blast Motion is so important. You can tell a kid something in so many ways, but now with technology and the way it works, the instant feedback that Blast gives is what I’m most excited about.”

The cutting-edge and easy-to-use technology helps provide that individual attention and touch, according to Marcelino.

“We’ve been doing some one-on-one work with the guys,” recalled Marcelino. “So we put their cell phone on the tripod, and they go into their Blast Baseball 360 app, get into the video recording and we record five or six swings, and we play it back and break it down.”

“It’s great because you tell them one thing as far as their hand path or the bat path and figure out how to fix their launch angle by getting down on their legs more and things like that. But then when you show them and then you record it again and they see the result – that’s when you can connect the feeling with what they actually did and that objective feedback. Each guy has something that is going to click different for him. So, each of our guys has an individual hitting plan, which incorporates Blast.”

IMPROVEMENT STARTS WITH MEASUREMENT

Marcelino added that he has even developed his own leaderboard, which he calls the Quality At-Bat World Series. In his eyes, this is more important that leading the team in batting average.

The next step for Marcelino and his coaches is to begin incorporating more and more data from Blast Baseball 360 into these advanced statistics for his leaderboard.

“We’re going to look at their Blast numbers,” explained Marcelino. “We’ll look at what we want from each of them individually – from their target bat path to their target energy transfer to their target swing speed and exit velo. With all the numbers that Blast provides, we know they’re taking a good swing when those are consistent. That’s what we want, number one. We want them to step in with a clear mind and get their best swing on. That’s where Blast makes on impact with our players.”

For updates on the Toreros season, follow them on Twitter @USDbaseball

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Blast Motion Approved for In-Game Use

Blast Motion approved for on-field activities and in-game use

Blast Technology Approved for In-Game Use
With the baseball season opening day upon us and the recent launch of the Blast Baseball 360 next gen app, it’s time to play ball! In 2016, Blast became the Official Bat Sensor Technology of Major League Baseball and for the 2017 season, we have been approved for in-game use in the complex leagues, which are the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona Summer Leagues (Minor League). The players assigned to this level are first-year players who are drafted into the MLB. As in 2016, we have also received approval for on-field use.

MLB, Teams, and Players Benefit from Blast Sensor Data
Blast has developed the most consistent and accurate swing analysis sensor in the market. Through an independent study completed by the Center for Human Performance, the Blast sensor delivered industry-leading results. And, when you’re working with the top athletes in Baseball, accuracy maters. (Center for Human Performance case study) By using bat sensor technology in-game, players, coaches, and front office personal will be able to gain new insights into recently drafted player performance through objective data (metrics). Armed with this data, MLB teams can create player profile baselines and begin to see how a player’s performance changes between practice and in-game situations. This also allows the teams to make validated comparisons between the rookies and their franchise players. Teams can start correlating various factors that can affect a player’s swing including stress, home / away field, weather, and other variables.

With teams using Blast sensor data to make better draft decisions at the amateur and now, rookie level, it’s clear Blast technology is changing how a new generation of players are being developed, assessed, and recruited, creating the standard for performance in the big leagues.

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The Next Generation of Blast Baseball 360

At Blast, we know the daily drive to improve starts with the right tools. We recently launched the next generation Blast Baseball 360 app (available in the App Store and Google Play), giving players and coaches a new toolkit to train smarter and get better.

The update brings a very different look and feel to the app. Our own Armando Santana, Director of Product Management, and Julia Putzeys, Product Manager, provide an in-depth look at the new features and functionalities, along with the inspiration behind the update.

Experience the Difference

After extensive research, feedback, and testing to see what players and coaches wanted out of Baseball 360, our team found several ways to improve the overall experience.

“We have an amazing technology in our sensor, and it’s something that’s super valuable to the people who are using it to train and be better in their sport,”said Putzeys. “But really, that’s not helpful to them unless they have an app that goes with it that is just as great. It needs to be easy to use and perfectly showcase all the functionality the sensor has, and we think that’s what we’re bringing to our customers with the new generation of our app.”

From a fresh new user interface to enhanced ease-of-use to smarter, faster technology, the update was designed with coaches and hitters in mind, for a quicker path to improvement.

“With our new Baseball 360 app, you’re going to see some general improvements of the interface,” explained Santana. “You’re going to be able to find things easier. You’re going to be able to see where your swings are, where your videos are, where your metrics are, and how you’re progressing. The overall flow fits with the way you’re going to be able to digest this information and train faster.”

From research and development to planning and implementation, many people and perspectives were involved in the new Blast Baseball 360 app.

“Early on, we spent a lot of time talking to our users and our ambassadors,” said Santana. “We have designers on staff who really take that feedback in, and we have these collaborative design sessions. We whiteboard ideas. We work together, then we work with engineering, who is coming up with solutions to those problems that our customers are sharing. They’re figuring out ways we can make this app faster, sync with the cloud, and provide video capabilities that are differentiating features in our Baseball 360 app.”

Users Played a Big Role

In addition to our in-house team, our loyal user base, along with our valued Blast Coaches played an important role in the introduction of this next phase of Baseball 360 technology.

“Our users give us feedback on a daily-basis about how they’re experiencing the product, what they like about it, and also what they don’t like about it,” explained Putzeys. “So we really take that to heart and work with our users. We get feedback from all different kinds of channels – through our customer support team and on the app stores. We also bring a lot of users and ambassadors into our lab and we work with them on the product, and we come up with ideas from there and ways that it can improve based on how they use it.”

“We started with the customer first, and we realized that we needed to build something that worked the way they work,” added Santana. “So we spent a lot of time talking to our ambassadors and pro users, and really understanding how they’re using Blast Baseball today.”

Two Audiences, One Solution

When designing and implementing this update, it was important to keep two distinct audiences in mind:

Baseball and softball hitters of all levels. And their coaches and coaching academies. In the end, we came up with one solution to meet the needs of both groups.

“We’re targeting two different people,” explained Putzeys. “The first is a player that just wants to get better. So we want to provide them with all the tools they need to train on their own, including drills, ideas, and content from our ambassadors to help them get better, then teach them how to use the Blast sensor and our application to train on their own.

“But we’re also targeting coaches who have a team of players that may be using a sensor that they share among them – or each player on the team might have a sensor and the coach is running a practice while using our solution with all of their team members. It’s a very different use case, but I think a lot of times they’re looking for the same results. So, we focused on those main users and optimize a solution that would work for both of them.”

“We wanted to build this app for anybody who wants to improve their swing,” added Santana, who is also an active coach himself. “So the Baseball 360 app needs to be really easy to use, whether it’s the youth coach who is just learning about Blast Baseball and really want to improve a youth player, all the way up to the pro player who’s really trying to take their game to the next level. And it needs to satisfy everybody in between.”

A Bold New UI

A big part of meeting those needs lay in developing an intuitive new user interface – or UI, for short. This revamped UI needed to be not only easier to use, but more enjoyable to interact with.

“We have this amazing solution and we want to have an app that really helps our users use our sensor,” said Putzeys. “We want our app to be fun to use and easy to use, where it makes someone want to pick it up every day and train with it. We want to provide new content for our users and we want to provide an ultimate training experience.”

Training Center + Blast Connect

One of the major improvements is the development of the Training Center, an online and in-app repository for videos and other content that focuses on training and interactive drills. Some of those drills are even offered by luminaries like Blast Baseball Athlete, and Houstons Astros shortstop, Carlos Correa.

The Training Center resides in the main bottom navigation of the new Blast Baseball 360 app – making it easily accessible from anywhere in the app.

“We’ve gotten some feedback on our new training center, which provides something that users have really been asking for,” explained Putzeys. “It’s a place to learn how to get better, and also learn how to use our sensor and integrate it into their training and really get the most out of it. This way, they can make sure they’re using the sensor the way it should be used, and improving on all the metrics we measure. It outlines each metric, along with ways to improve on each.”

This new focus on content-rich training is also fully integrated into Blast Connect, to create the total improvement solution.

“If you’re using the full solution, you get all your workouts and practices from your coach, you can access them on your mobile phone, and you can complete the workouts and practices while you’re on the go” said Putzeys.

“With the new Blast Baseball 360 app, coaches and academies can expect some improvements on how we have integrated with Blast Connect,” said Santana. “Coaches can capture swings and videos and sync that to the cloud, then they can go to Blast Connect and really analyze that information. One of our goals with this new app is to empower athletes to improve and just work smarter. And as they work smarter, they are going to master the game and ultimately enjoy the game more.”

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Trick-Or-Tracking? Fitness Trackers Versus Motion Sensors [INFOGRAPHIC]

Why simple fitness trackers may not be your best option for fitness improvement.

wearable versus motion sensor infographic

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Fitness Trackers & Wearable Tech Are On the Rise:

Fitness trackers are all the rage — especially amongst 16 to 24 year-olds — and the wearable technology trend is only increasing.

  • 41% of active Americans own, and use, one or more wearable devices.
  • By 2016, worldwide spending on wearable tech will climb to $1.4 billion.
  • 69% of U.S. adults track their exercise, diet, weight, blood pressure, or sleep patterns using a variety of different methods.
  • 75% of NYC Triathlon survey respondents said they planned on using wearable tech to track their speed and distance during the race.

Do fitness trackers work?
You may have surpassed the benefits of your simple fitness tracker. Could it be time to look into a more accurate, higher-capability device?

  • Fitness trackers can make it easier for you to track your overall fitness progress.
  • They’re not designed to push you to workout — they only make it easier to monitor your accomplishments.
  • Fitness trackers can also be linked to social networking accounts. This allows you to share your fitness accomplishments online, which can have a positive impact on your perception of fitness and health.
  • Fitness trackers are becoming more accurate. One study focused on the accuracy of the top five fitness trackers. The study noted that all five were able to track within 10% accuracy the total number of steps that were taken during the study. The study noted though, that the devices weren’t as accurate when tracking agility movements, and they were not as accurate when tracking total calorie burn.
  • What does that mean? Fitness trackers are great for tracking specific movement-related or time-related goals — like steps taken or total time spent exercising. They also work more efficiently for certain activities, like running or walking, as opposed to agility-based exercises, like using the elliptical machine or participating in sports.

Want more than a simple fitness tracker? Here’s what you need, and how to use it.

If you are serious about fitness improvement, as opposed to simple progress logging, then you should learn about motion sensor technology – used for performance enhancement and sport-specific goals. Motion capture technology (like the Blast Motion products) gives you a wide range of metrics.

  • Set a goal: If you’re looking to increase your hang-time, speed, height, jump acceleration and more, then a simple fitness tracker won’t cut it. These types of goals call for motion sensor wearable technology that records your movements and gives you incredibly accurate, complex results.
  • Attach it: If you are playing basketball or doing gymnastics, place the sensor on your clothing; if you are playing golf or baseball, attach the sensor to your club or bat. This strategic placement allows the precision motion sensor to get the most accurate reading.
  • Sync it up! Pair your sensor with iPhone and grab a friend to record you in action. The app creates a slow-mo video with overlaid metrics. You control the speed at which the video is replayed to gain deeper performance insight.
  • Share your metrics: Also, share your video clips via social media directly from the app. Friends, family, and fans can join in in watching your progress and accomplishments.