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Best of the 2019 ABCA Trade Show

01/04/2019, 10:30pm EST
By Josh Belanger

Along with over 50 clinics from the best baseball minds in the world, the ABCA convention brings the largest baseball trade show in the world to Dallas for four days. Every relevant brand in the game has a booth and the most recent technology and gadgets are also on display.

With over 300 booths, it took me over three hours to get through the whole trade show. It was truly amazing to be able to walk around the room and see nothing but baseball products and baseball enthusiasts checking them out. I also enjoyed being able to discover new products and meet people who are motivated to change the game with their inventions.

Here were some of my favorite booths from the trade show:

Favorite Training Aid - Line Drive Pro swing trainer

The main reason why I love this tool is it gives hitters immediate feedback on their swing. It has been proven time and time again that external cues, like physical feedback, is the most efficient way to learn. I had not swung a bat in forever and it showed in my first couple of swings with the ball flying off to the left (not shown in the video). After making the proper adjustment of staying through the ball and not pulling off, I was able to lock in and hit the target. Not only did I feel the difference immediately when I hit the sign, but I felt more confident that I could repeat it. This really is a must have training aid for all youth coaches.

Favorite Technology - Micro Fantasy baseball game

When I walked by the Micro Fantasy booth, I didn’t really need much explanation as I already had a pretty good idea on what their product was -- and I loved it. As a large travel league that is always looking for different ways to engage parents, what better way than to have them play fantasy baseball with their own kids. With no cost to play and no money to win, it really is a fun game for parents to play that will engage them in the game without raising the stakes higher than they already are at the youth levels. I really hope we can work something out to add this to our league as I think this could be another great addition to everything we already do with media coverage. All the game needs is a score keeper, which most teams already have with GameChanger, and parents or siblings can sign in and play for points by predicting the outcome of the next play. Can’t wait to play? Me neither.   

Favorite Gadget - Yellow Jacket radar gun/app

The Yellow Jacket radar gun couples the data collected from a radar gun and video footage from a smartphone to create video clips that provide velocity readings. I feel like this type of technology will be a staple with every college coach in the country in the near future. So many times I hear college coaches talk about wanting to receive footage from potential recruits while also requesting different data points like velocity and spin rate. This kills two birds with one stone by providing coaches both video footage with the data points. The representative of the product was telling me the product has yet to be debuted, however tons of college coaches said they love the idea of the product. Anything that makes their life easier is something that I feel will catch on and spread throughout the game. You may be seeing Yellow Jacket guns in the hands of every scout before you know it.   

Favorite Booth - Axe Bat

As a diehard Red Sox fan, it was pretty special to swing the same bat as Mookie Betts in a virtual reality Fenway Park. The booth also had George Springer’s exact model to swing along with all of their bats on the market to swing on their HitTrax system. The Axe bat is unique in the sense that the knob of the bat is shaped like an axe handle. The idea behind the design is to enable quicker bat speed and higher bat control. The results for Betts and Springer speak for themselves and I am just waiting for this type of bat to take off. Each hitter is different however the feeling of swinging an Axe bat in like nothing I have ever experienced. I just wish I had these bats when I played, even though it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Wishful thinking I guess.  

Favorite Tool For Youth Players - SweetSpotSwings tee

I really thought this was a fun tool for young players learning the game. Not only is tee work so important, but it allows players to feel the contact points of different pitches and get a ton of repetitions in a short amount of time. As shown below, the coach can easily move between every location in the strike zone in a matter of seconds with this tee. The player can work each pitch and find out what pitches he is struggling with while also giving them wheelhouse pitches to improve confidence. The tee also allows for random training, something I picked up in a another clinic. The idea is that random training of repetitions and speed, rather than a set number of reps at a certain speed or location, can be more effective as it plays more like a game. Game situations can sometimes be very random and players need to learn to adjust on the fly. I found this tee to not only be a great invention but a great tool for youth hitters learning to hit different pitches and control the strike zone.      

Can’t wait to have the ABCA Trade Show in the nation’s capital at the National Harbor in 2021. Everyone who loves baseball needs to experience it. The trade show really gives a true meaning to baseball heaven.  

(Disclaimer: NVTBL does not officially sponsor these products and did not receive financial compensation for highlighting their products. The favorite products listed were the opinion of the author.)  

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