Ahead in the Count

Put. The gun. Down.

posted by Ted Sullivan

Now back away from the gun.

I hate radar guns. Not because I like driving fast, but because I have always pitched slowly.

I recently attended a January “pre-draft” tryout for players aged 8 to 12 years old in New York City. My guess is that 90% of the players hadn’t picked up a baseball since August. Every player had to go through each of three stations — fielding, hitting and pitching. At the pitching station, each kid, one at a time, was asked to stand on a plastic mound and throw about 10 pitches to a catcher 40 feet away without any warmups, stretching or coaching. Behind the mound was a volunteer in a folding chair holding a radar gun to clock the speed of each pitch. The results were inevitable and summarized as follows: very few strikes, horrible mechanics, consistent questions to the gun holder to inquire “how fast was that?” and many, young players walking away from the pitching station massaging their shoulders and elbows. I hate radar guns.

Vote for gun control.

Vote for gun control.

I admit that I’m biased. I’ve never thrown a baseball 90 miles per hour and never will. During my pitching career in the ACC and the low minor leagues, I would occasionally (and stupidly) glance behind the backstop and would see a scout (or several) with a JUGS radar gun pointed directly at me. I would have preferred to be in the crosshairs of a real gun. Despite disciplined thinking and self-talking, I would inevitably put a little more “umph” on my next pitch, almost always resulting in less than my best velocity, no movement, poor location and sometimes a little twinge in my elbow or shoulder.

Radar guns are a necessary tool for evaluating and scouting pitchers with college and professional aspirations. They should never be near a little league field because they lead to bad habits and injuries.

All hail the changeup.

February 25, 2009 - Posted by | On the Field, written by Ted Sullivan


  1. I remember seeing the first $139 radar gun at Sports Authority about 5 years ago and asking myself “who would ever buy those?”. Now, you seen more radar guns in 10-12 year old baseball than you do in high school baseball.

    It is very difficult to assess talent in baseball. Anything that has a number attached to it, and is measured, becomes more “real” and takes on greater significance. Too many youth coaches are focused on recruiting talent instead of developing talent. So, they gravitate to anything with a number attached to it. The $139 radar gun is a perfect fit with this coaching approach. It is the Saturday nigh special for youth baseball.

    As the NRA would say, “radar guns don’t hurt players, bad coaches hurt players”.

    Comment by Mark Gallion | February 26, 2009

  2. Great post! I’m “following” you. I’ve been seeking out more content like this.

    Comment by Joe Hrdlicka | March 1, 2009

  3. That’s really disturbing that radar guns are showing up as an evaluation tool in the 8-12 age range. At that age, the only thing that any coach should be looking at is mechanics and throwing motion. The radar gun creates an environment where the player is forcing an excess effort.

    I haven’t seen any guns at the high school level in the games I’ve covered, but I’ll be watching for it this year.

    Comment by Dennis Murray | March 3, 2009

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