Digital Academy's myHits a hit with kids

Video technology helps youth improve their swing

Digital Academy's myHits a hit with kids

Anthony Volpe, 13, is a middle infielder for the 14-and-under Diamond Jacks team in New Jersey and the 13U GoWags RiverCats from Pennsylvania. Last year, he played on the 12U Team USA that won the World Cup gold medal in Taiwan and was named the best second baseman in the tournament.

"He played a lot of baseball, maybe too much, because by September of last year, he developed inflammation in the growth plate of his right shoulder," said Michael Volpe, Anthony's father. "He had to miss four months and didn't play at all last fall. After his rest and rehab, he was able to get back to baseball in January but then had the challenge of transitioning to the big field, and I think the long layoff, as well as the 400-foot fences, changed his swing.

"On the small field, he hit many, many home runs. I'm not sure how many, but we stopped collecting home run balls a long time ago. Anyway, this past winter, his swing didn't look the same. He played in a couple of winter tournaments in Florida and wasn't as successful as he usually is, and a couple of coaches wanted to change his swing. No one ever had asked him to do that."

That's when one coach suggested that they turn to the MLB.com Digital Academy and its myHits automated video analysis instructional technology. The service, introduced by Major League Baseball Advanced Media and Big League Analysis, allows you to upload a hitting swing video and compare it side-by-side with the swing of a current Major League player.

"I liked the idea," Michael Volpe said. "When swinging, professionals may start differently, but when they put their front foot down to start their swing, they all look the same. They all shift their weight and move their hands and head in such a similar fashion that if you changed their uniforms, there are parts during a professional baseball player's swing when they all look exactly the same. I figured it would be a good idea to compare Anthony's swing to a perfect swing of a professional player to see if he was doing anything wrong, or if it was just a timing issue from hitting against a pitcher who was now 60 feet away."

They began the processs by registering on MLB.com/digitalacademy. It costs $30 for one token for a myHits swing analysis, or you can save with $99 for four tokens if you want to compare your swing against multiple Major Leaguers.

To get started, take a video (under 50 MB) of your swing using a smartphone, tablet or digital camera. Use the helpful video tips on the site to ensure an accurate analysis. Follow the step-by-step instructional and interactive swing-analysis process, and choose a Major Leaguer for comparison. Upload your video, trim it to the needed length and crop the video image to the right size.

From there, myHits will help you break down the six key stages of your swing. They include the stance, timing, hitting, rotation, contact and extension. Choose a thumbnail that best corresponds to the same stage for your comparison big leaguer. Drag and drop markers, and myHits will use those markers to analyze your swing. Then the analysis begins, and you'll receive a personalized report that highlights key things you are doing well and what you could do better.

"We are excited to deliver an instructional and interactive resource that gives youth players a chance to compare their swings to MLB players," said Tyson Hanish, the CEO of BLA. "Having that visual perspective is a great teaching tool for kids."

"Improving the enjoyment and success around youth baseball is an important initiative to help grow the game, and myHits will support that through its unique online teaching experiences," said Noah Garden, MLBAM executive vice president of revenue.

You can share your myHits reports with friends and family and challenge friends and teammates. High scores earn myHits trophies in your personalized virtual clubhouse.

Anthony, a right-handed batter who is 5-foot-4 and 115 pounds, picked Derek Jeter and Andrew McCutchen because those are two of his favorite players. There was plenty of news to share. He scored a 731 compared to Jeter and a 756 compared to McCutchen, both good numbers.

"After comparing the swings, Anthony and I could easily see that he was dropping his back shoulder and leaning back way too much during his swing," Michael said. "I think he was trying to swing too hard to try to reach the much deeper fences on the bigger fields. After a few adjustments, he started hitting better than ever. MyHits is a great product."

Jake Sage, 12, is a Red Sox fan living in New York and playing second base and shortstop for Empire Baseball NYC. He was able to compare his swing to that of his favorite player, Dustin Pedroia, and recorded a 696 analysis.

"MyHits was perfect for my son Jake because he is an avid baseball player and MLB fan with a strong desire to always improve his game and hitting techniques," Mark Sage said. "He has many great coaches who have helped him improve his hitting mechanics through lessons and at practices, but this is a unique experience that also makes it extra fun for him. Training can sometimes become hard for a 12-year-old. The whole MyHits experience was easy, entertaining and educational."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.