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Zepp, Old Hickory unveil "smart bat"

Scheduled to go on sale in June, the wood bat includes a Zepp sensor that fits right into the handle.

Mike Trout uses the "smart" version of his signature bat
Mike Trout uses the "smart" version of his signature bat
Zepp

Just two months after the first prototype was shown to the public, sensor manufacturer Zepp unveiled a "smart bat" at an event at the Angels' spring training facility in Tempe last weekend.

The smart bat (officially the Mike Trout Old Hickory Smart Bat Powered by Zepp) features Zepp's sensor integrated into the handle of an Old Hickory wood bat. The Tennesse-based bat manufacturer works with several MLB players, including Mike Trout, who worked with his two sponsors to help bring the smart bat to life.

First introduced at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the smart bat combines gyroscopes and accelerometers in a removable package that fits into a cavity by the bat's handle. The bat will be manufactured exactly the same as Trout's signature Old Hickory bat, with the cavity drilled into the handle at the end of the process. Integrating the sensor into the bat handle makes the sensor more stable (reducing the possibility of artifacts during intense swings) and improves the bat's feel.

"If you gave me my normal signature bat and then the smart bat, I don't think I could tell the difference," Trout said at the unveiling.

The charger that comes with the sensor is magnetic, so users can leave the sensor in the bat while it charges. Users can also can also "unlock" the sensor and remove it with the charger, if needed.

Zepp Vice President of Marketing Pat Nicholson said this first smart bat was "pulled together within two months," or since the company's announcement of the bat at CES. The smart bat is scheduled to go on sale in June, but no price has been set at this time.

In addition to their promotional arrangement with Trout, Zepp also signed a deal with the Angels last summer. New Director of Analytics Jonathan Luman declined to discuss how the Angels were using the sensors when asked for comment, but Nicholson said organizations used the data for roster building and player development.

"A backend data portal has been created for each organization to provide them with the ability to view each player's swing, which includes the existing metrics in the Zepp app, as well as the ability to break down the swing for the complete 1,000 data points captured from the sensor," Nicholson said.

Nicholson said 2016 will be "the year of the smart bat" for Zepp, and that the company hopes to work with other bat companies to produce similar products. Zepp has been pushing for an industry standard smart bat design to help smart bat technology proliferate.

"An industry standard ensures the integrity of the bat and player safety, and still allows for innovation at the level of software and data, where it really matters," Nicholson said.

The emphasis on player safety and bat integrity hints at Zepp's desire to get the bats approved for in-game use. Smart bats have been approved for in-game use by Ripken Baseball and in Perfect Game USA showcases, and Zepp is working with other organizing bodies to get the bats approved.

"Cage data's great, practice data's great, but in-game data is the next level," Zepp's Baseball Product Manager Trevor Stocking said.

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Bryan Cole is a featured writer for Beyond the Box Score. He was in no way compensated by, nor does he endorse, any of the companies or products mentioned above. You can follow him on Twitter at @Doctor_Bryan.