The mechanics of hitting a baseball seems simplistic: keep your eyes on the ball and swing. But it’s more complicated in terms of physics and mathematics. The slightest flaw in a batter’s swing can mean the difference in a ground ball, fly out, or even worst, missing the ball completely.
“If you don’t sequence correctly, which is using your entire body, keep your hands where they’re supposed to be, and the barrel head where it’s supposed to be, [you’ll have problems at the plate],” said Spike Richards, who helps train local athletes using K-MOTION.
“The body sequence is from the hips to the torso to the lead arm to the hands,” added Richards. “If there’s not the right amount of stretch in between each one, a batter will get handsy. In other words, start throwing their hands.”
K-MOTION is the bio-mechanical analysis of the body in space during a swing. Richards breaks it down to a simple explanation.
“Let’s take nails, for example,” said Richards. “We know that nails aren’t screwed into an object like wood nails. We drive them in with a hammer. How do we drive them? Whether in the ceiling or the floor, we have to get directly behind it and drive through it. That’s the same thing we’re doing with a baseball. We have to get behind it. Whether a guy is six-foot-nine or five-foot-nine, we have to get the bat behind it and drive through the ball.”
In addition to the analysis program he uses to measure the physics and mathematics of a batter’s entire swing, Richards designed what he calls a simplistic tool - a baseball bat with two shaved sides.
A simple tool, yes, but complicated and unique enough that his creation needed patent protection. Recently, Richards was awarded a patent for his product, which is now used by JUCO and D1 colleges and some local high school coaches and players.
“I haven’t had a single person that’s used it and not agreed that it’s the best swinging tool they’ve ever seen,” said Richards. “It’s so simple and part of the reason I had to get it patented.”
The bat is designed to help batters take appropriate angles towards a pitch for solid contact.
“It’s the simplicity of we give you,” said Richards. “Our product gives you about a one and a half-inch of hitting surface. It’s the feedback of the bat too. You can feel it shank off the flat sides of your swing is not perfect.”
It’s like the physics and mathematics of a pitcher’s motion, which includes more than just the arm delivering a ball to a certain distance away. Without the entire body in sequence, a pitch lacks control and speed.
“Pitching and the hitting sequence are one hundred percent the same,” said Richards. “We’ve got the computer graphs that prove it. Nobody comes up to the mound and throws all arm. They have to sequence the body all the way up. To get maximum velocity, you have to sequence correctly. That’s the same thing with a batter’s swing; you can’t drop the hands and put them in a hole. You’ve got to sequence correctly. When you do, though, the bat and the body will end up behind the ball. It’s elementary in theory.”
Richards presented his design to those who could give him the feedback he needed before seeking a patent.
“I was fortunate enough to take a trip out to Baltimore,” said Richards. “I do some consulting and some work with the Under Armour Baseball Factory. The head of product development was there, so I asked for his feedback. When he swung it, he said he’d never seen anything like this before.”
“It was a process of trying to figure out and make sure it was specific enough that somebody else couldn’t slip in and market it because it is so simple,” added Richards regarding his design. “At the same time, I put so much work into making that.”
The use of Richards’ design is more than just a bat to swing. It’s meant to be used like any other bat in practice.
“I put an additive in the wood that seeps through the wood and into the grains,” said Richards. “When it evaporates, it leaves a plastic substance inside the grain to make it harder.
“For you to hit hard in a game, you got to swing hard in practice. You can’t go 80 percent and expect your body to work right at 100. It just doesn’t work that way.”
His patented product is called “Sabr Bats.” Richards incorporated his kids, Ali and Brady, into the name.
“With the saber logo, it’s Spike, Allie, Brady, and Richard,” said Richards. “Part of it was involving them so that they’d understand it’s okay to do something that has a potential to fail. It’s just not okay not to try.”
Richards is consistently looking for ways to improve the durability of his product.
“The product’s going to have to look and be everything I want it to be able to stand up,” said Richards. “That’s the goal. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to go all out. If we fail, we fail.”