When my eldest son started with t-ball at the age of seven, I started looking for ways to improve his batting skills. Usually those who can bat without the tee become much better players, and I was hoping to make my kids great players! We did a lot of t-ball practice, and later simply tried practicing with some underhand pitches. Eventually he got a lot better, much better than his team mates, and he graduated from t-ball a year earlier than everyone else.
I went through the same drills with my second son, and was planning on doing the same with my third son. While my youngest boy was in t-ball, however, I found the SKLZ Zip-N-Hit Pro Baseball Trainer. It looked really interesting, and the company, SKLZ is known for producing good quality training equipment. Since all my sons play baseball, I saw this as a great investment for all of them!
The SKLZ Zip-N-Hit Pro Baseball Trainer is basically a baseball attached to two strings. The mechanism helps you shuttle the baseball towards the batter. It is advertised as a portable batting cage in the sense that it helps your child bat continuously, but without having to secure your surroundings since the batted ball just goes back towards you. The manufacturer's site claims it can help get children used to fastballs, sliders, curveballs, and changeups.
With such a great description, I couldn't refuse! I bought the Zip-N-Hit trainer and started work with my sons!
After having this product for some time and having tested it on all my boys, I can tell you that it's a pretty good product. First, we like that it's portable and easy to pack up so we can bring it with us when we're on vacation and not lose any practice time. Second, I like that it's easy for my wife to use, which is great when I'm not around to practice with the kids. Finally, you can do a lot of “silly” things with the Zip-N-Hit so it turns each practice session into a fun one too because you can goof off a little.
In terms of helping my kids with their baseball game, The SKLZ Zip-N-Hit Pro Baseball Trainer really helps them square their shoulders correctly, making sure they don't drop it too much, which is something my first son is prone to doing. It took a while to improve their batting, though. In fact, in the beginning, I think it actually made their batting worse! Since the ball stays on a string, it doesn't fall the way a pitched ball would. My kids ended up hitting high!
After reading up on it, I learned that there are some techniques to master which will help you get the ball to drop more naturally, but they also take practice on my part, and in the meantime, my kids aren't batting quite right. In order to give your kids sliders, curveballs, and changeups, you also have to do some practicing. The problem was solved after some practice with my wife. I was able to find ways to make the ball drop better, but I've become quite wary of extensive use of the product.
These days, both my wife and I use it with my daughter, who is now in t-ball. She's got a good swing, and this product helps her hit balls that are whizzing towards her. So I would definitely recommend it as a product for transitioning your kids from t-ball into baseball or softball.
Apart from my initial alarm that it was doing the opposite of helping, my only other complaint is that the strings wear out after a year. The set comes with extra strings, though, and you can actually buy the strings by themselves, so really it isn't too bad. Plus, after all the practicing we did with it, I'm actually quite glad it lasted a year. Just wished it lasted longer.
Considering all the experience we've had with the SKLZ Zip-N-Hit Pro Baseball Trainer, I would recommend it for parents with younger kids or for those whose kids have bad batting form. If your kid has a good swing and batting average, this product can help or it can make him lose his edge, simply because the person propelling the ball needs to practice with it too, and this is something most people don't expect. For the most part, however, it's a good product and pretty good investment.
Learn more about the Zip-N-Hit from other customers who have tried it! Check out its reviews on Amazon.com by clicking here.