Pitt professor's idea spawns company to track baseball players' batting efforts
As a coach for Little League softball and baseball, William Clark said players and their parents often asked for his advice about selecting a bat and improving their swings.
The mechanical engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh had no good answers until he began working on a mathematical formula about 10 years ago that would help him calculate the correct bat for each player.
“I got to thinking, ‘It's a physics problem,' ” said Clark, who specializes in motion and dynamics.
Figuring out that problem became the basis for a North Side startup company he co-founded in 2012. Diamond Kinetics is preparing to debut its first product, a sensor pack that attaches to the bottom end of a bat and transmits swing data to a smartphone app.
Called SwingTracker, the sensor-app package gives baseball and softball players the kind of data that would have been available only with expensive motion-capture technology used to make movies and video games.
“Unless you have really expensive camera equipment, it's only a notion in the coach's mind,” Clark said of the precise motion and speed of the bat during a swing. “Now we can quantify it.”
The device measures bat speed, angle of the bat when it hits the ball, hand speed and position, time between starting the swing and making contact with the ball, and other parameters, he said. Those measurements can be benchmarked against other players and tracked over time to gauge improvements with training.
SwingTracker will be available for pre-order through Diamond Kinetics' website starting July 1. The company expects to begin shipping the $149 device this fall, CEO C.J. Handron said.
Handron met Clark at Pitt, where Handron was running Pantherlab Works, a center that helps entrepreneurs bring technology to market. Clark, who remains a full-time professor, sought help turning his idea for SwingTracker into a company.
Diamond Kinetics hopes to sell the device in sporting goods stores, he said. For now it is marketing the product at baseball and softball training facilities, where the company can reach serious amateur players — the kind with parents who spend upward of $10,000 a year on equipment, coaching and travel, he said.
Chris Bardakos, player development director for Core Athletics, a West Deer company that coaches and trains amateur baseball players, saw early versions of SwingTracker and thinks it could be useful for players.
“I've never used anything like this that could give you this kind of data,” said Bardakos, a coach for 18 years. Diamond Kinetics tested SwingTracker with more than 50 of Bardakos' players to get feedback on how the app works.
“The potential is quite unlimited. ... I'm surprised that something with this detail isn't already available,” he said. “And once it's available, I'll be surprised if most training facilities don't integrate it.”
Handron said there are about 1,000 such training facilities in the United States.
And the potential market is huge. There are an estimated 12 million amateur baseball and softball players in the United States and 35 million around the world, he said.
The four-employee company has relied on investors for capital, said Handron, who declined to provide specific dollar figures. It has enough money to get through the product release and hire more employees. The company wants to add four workers over the next couple months, he said.
Similar devices have been developed for golf, but Diamond Kinetics licensed the patents for the sensor-app specifically for baseball and softball, Handron said. The technology was made at Pitt and the University of Michigan, he said.
“If you're going to do this right, you focus on a specific sport,” he said.
Alex Nixon is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Alex Nixon to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kraft shareholders approve merger with Heinz
- Alpha Natural Resources buys out European partner in Marcellus venture
- Halliburton to close Indiana County office
- Federal bureau posts consumer complaints with banks, credit card companies
- Consol again reworks offering for coal spinoff
- Data transfer in mergers tall task for chief information officer for Peoples Gas
- Supreme Court justices ream EPA for ignoring costs to meet air standards
- Pending home sales in U.S. climb to 9-year high
- Obama overtime proposal slammed
- U.S. Steel, Alcoa lead June decline
- EDMC to cut 300 jobs, including 70 in Pittsburgh