Products Review: The Complete Pocket Radar Review

POCKET RADAR "BALL COACH"

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The Pocket Radar Ball Coach

​To improve something, measure it. This simple rule guides our metric-driven approach, whether measuring strength, bar-speed, macronutrients, body composition, or velocity. So much so, that radar gun access is actually a requirement for athletes that train remotely with us.

The gold standard for baseball radar guns are still considered the Stalker Pro II ($1,199+) and the Stalker Sport 2 ($499+) models, of which we generally recommend the Sport 2 for coaches and athletes, which has no discernible difference in accuracy under normal training conditions.

We were excited to put the Ball Coach (listed at $299) through rigorous testing of our own, hopeful to be able to recommend a less expensive option to our athletes. 

Design and Durability:

The Pocket Radar is as compact as advertised. Measuring in at around the size of most cell phones, it's much easier to carry around than the briefcase-sized Stalker Sport 2 carry case we also own. It comes with a clip-case, which I've found to be useful both for protection and for clipping to your belt or waistband. Even without the case, though, this thing feels damn-near indestructible, kind of like those old school Nokia phones. I've dropped it on turf, grass and even once on concrete without any issues besides a minor scuff (although I wouldn't recommend testing this). Contrast this to the time I dropped my Stalker Sport 2 on concrete and spent 3 weeks waiting to have it recalibrated and repaired by Stalker after it began reading erratically. 

The tradeoff here is that the Ball Coach lacks the typical barrel seen on other radar guns, affecting both the effective distance (rated to 120' rather than the 300-500 feet for Stalker models*) and aiming of the device (imagine aiming a pistol that didn't have a barrel - you'd have to be fairly close to ensure the right angle). Still, these drawbacks are negligible if you're using it under the specifications the vast majority of trainees and coaches will be using. For scouts, it still makes sense to stick to the clunky, albeit longer range Stalker models. 

*While I can actually pick up readings at 100-120 feet from a Pocket Radar, in my experience it's damn-near impossible to get readings with even a Stalker Pro II past about 200-250 feet, so these listed ranges are a bit exaggerated for practical purposes. With either gun, though, staying between 15 and 90 feet from ball release is a good guideline for accurate readings.

Design rating: 8/10

Accuracy

This is by far the most important aspect of any radar gun. I hesitate to put the Ball Coach in the "budget" radar gun category, as it's more of a mid-range player. Still, it's by far the least expensive option that can reliably hold its own against higher end models like the Stalker Pro II. 

The Ball Coach does not display velocities to the nearest tenth like higher end radar guns, but this is plenty good enough for just about any trainee or coach, especially considering that even two Stalker guns will only read within about 0.5-1.0 mph of each other when placed side-by-side. The Ball Coach was consistently with +/- 1 mph of both the Stalker Pro II and Stalker Sport 2, which held for:

  • 5 oz baseballs
  • 3 to 32 oz Plyocare balls (both Driveline and Tap)
  • 3 to 9 oz weighted balls (Driveline, Markwort, Prime and other brands)
  • 2 to 8 lb medicine ball throws (note, the Ball Coach reads velocities from 25 to 130 mph, so medball throws below the threshold won't read. Stalker guns can be set to pick up as low as 15 mph throws).

Below is some footage of the Ball Coach in action, compared to both a Stalker Pro II and a Sport 2

Kyle, 14 oz TAP Plyocare - Pocket Radar vs. Stalker Pro II

Kyle bullpen - Pocket Radar vs. Stalker Sport 2: 

As you can see, it's pretty damn accurate. About as accurate as it could possibly be, for not displaying decimals. A couple things to remember in order to get such consistent readings:

  • Hold it very steady (or use a tripod) and aim directly at release point. Push the blue button a second or two prior to the pitch. If you push the button too late it may not pick up the pitch until it's already half way to home plate, which will result in a slower reading.
  • Stand between 15 and 90 feet from release point.
  • Make sure the batteries are relatively fresh (I haven't seen this screw up readings, but just do it to be safe).

For what it is (a mid range training device), the Pocket Radar is as accurate as they come, and it's the only mid-range or budget radar device I recommend to my athletes. While lacking the ability to display tenths makes the Ball Coach more user friendly for lower-level athletes, it is the only reason I can't give it a perfect rating on this section.

Accuracy rating: 9/10

Features:

The Pocket Radar doesn't come loaded with features, but it does have the essentials:

  • Tripod compatible (must have a small attachment which can be purchased here or on amazon for a few bucks.
  • Hold & Aim or Continuous Mode (the former conserves battery, while the latter is good for training solo).
  • Runs on 2 AAA batteries (NiMH rechargeables will get up to 2 hours on automatic mode, and a couple thousand holds on regular mode).
  • Range up to 120 feet.
  • Measures from 25 to 130 mph speed to within +/- 1 mph.
  • Can store and recall the most recent 25 readings (important when training solo).
  • Can switch displayed units between MPH and KPH.

​Again, the most notable features it doesn't have are the ability to connect to an LED display and the ability to display to the nearest tenth of a mile per hour. 

For more information, you can check out the full instructions and specifications at Pocket Radar's website.

Features rating: 6/10

Value:

Radar guns aren't cheap, but the Ball Coach ($299) is the least expensive reliable radar gun on the market by over $200. It doesn't have an LED display option, so for coaches needing this feature, look elsewhere. Still, for individual athletes or budget-conscious coaches, this is an excellent option. There really isn't much else to say - it does exactly what it advertises, and comes in at a competitive price point.

Value rating: 10/10

Customer Service and Support:

We received our unit in 3 business days, and our email questions were all answered promptly. We were also able to speak on the phone with their reps on a couple occasions to ask questions about the technology. Add to that a two year warranty and Pocket Radar's customer service has earned a thumbs up. Could it be better? I'm sure, but I can't think of anything I would have changed.

Support rating: 8/10

Overall Thoughts:

How sure are we of the Ball Coach's accuracy? Let's put it this way - we've been accepting velocity submissions to our record board that were measured with the Ball Coach.

As a metric-driven company, devices like the Pocket Radar Ball Coach are critical to the sustained success of our athletes from a velo-building perspective. Instant feedback is vital to developing and engraining more efficient movement patterns to ultimately crack into the next tier of performance.

Is the Ball Coach perfect? No, but it does exactly what it advertises - and does it well. Higher end users with the budget should still go Stalker (as brutal as their customer service and prices are), but just about everyone else will do perfectly fine with a Ball Coach.


To save 10% on a Pocket Radar Ball Coach, email us for a Coupon Code at support@treadathletics.com

You can find them available for purchase at Pocket Radar's website.