I honestly wish I could answer your question with some degree of certainty – but I can’t.
First off, I’m not from the amateur game and I really have no credentials to say I should quote chapter and verse on how to coach youth of any age. I’m simply not qualified.
On the other hand, I know the requirements of those pitchers who are paid to perform and the many tools that are used to qualify that performance – radar guns being one of them. Therefore, a pitcher who is both matured physically, mentally (yeah right), and has all the support with financial and professional coaching should be expected to have a benchmark that says… “there, there is the evidence that he’s doing well with those pitches in his repertoire…” That benchmark has a velocity rating to it – within a range + or -, depending on the pitcher and his “state” at the time.
Ok, let’s address your question given the paragraph above.
I know high schools, colleges and showcase’s galore, all use radar guns to meter pitchers. These readings are somewhat a knee-jerk reaction to what others do as a convenient means of qualifying the selection process – only because any other process requires a lot more with investing in training and a host of other things by the people that use these devices –radar guns. So, if I were to say, oh… at the age of sixteen (16), that’s a good time to start using these things, I’d be contradicting my last posting about they’re limitations.
By the way, did you ever notice the “WAIVER OF LIABILITY” that you must sign in order for your youngster to play high school baseball and/or to attend any showcase or similar event? That’s because these people have absolutely no control over how your son prepares for, plays and conducts himself at these events. It’s that knowledge that these people have …. “no control over your son…” that has them backpedaling like crazy over responsibility for your son’s well-being while in attending their program(s). Now at that point, if it were my son, I’d start asking …”what’s the radar gun for?”
Tell you what, the next time you see a coach or staff member using a radar gun at a tryout, practice, or even a special event – ASK WHY? Don’t be surprised to hear … “ well sir, everyone here hits around XX mph, and that’s our standard-bearer for pitchers at this level.” Don’t look for any sophistication in the responses, nor will you get one. You won’t hear that every pitcher that hits XX mph has a balanced diet, a conditioning program, a sleep management program, etc.
If your son is given a training table (diet), bed checks backed up by phone calls, a conditioning program that evaluates his physical conditioning, a periodic physical by a qualified medical professional, a must attend training sessions with a professional pitching coach – daily, a sleep management program, and finally a signed agreement by you and the program that your son is involved with where serious financial penalties are levied on you for your son not following his training – then a radar gun can be one tool used to evaluate your son’s pitching. Your son will have a benchmark that a radar gun will show for each pitch in his repertoire – fastball, slider, curveball, split-finger fastball, etc., based on all the training and support for him to reach and sustain that benchmark.
Here’s my belief – there is no substitute for a trained eye, seasoning based on a long tenure of successes and failures, observing the individual characteristics of each pitcher – health and not, and a lot of mature reasonability about the human spirit. Now I know I sound out of touch with today’s tech, in fact I admit it.
On the other hand, I use the gun to support what I need to know as reinforcement, reinforcement only.
I sympathize with you in regards to the environment that you and your son are in. Like so many others, you have to exist like all those before you with the scales of economy and those that follow suit like their predecessors.