The Cal Ripken Baseball 5-Tool Training Comebacker and Pitching Target is a great way to perform little league baseball drills, including throwing, pitching, and fielding. Cal Ripken is a Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer, and he has leant his name to a line of youth baseball equipment designed to increase the playing skills of youth players of all ages. Whether a young player is first learning the game of baseball, or a kid is on a select traveling team, parents are looking for new ways to teach their kids the fundamentals of the game. This particular pitchback is a good way for a player to practice and get baseball training right in their own backyard. There are a few drawbacks as well, which we will also explore here.
What is the Cal Ripken Baseball 5-Tool Training Comebacker and Pitching Target?
The Cal Ripken Baseball 5-Tool Training Comebacker and Pitching Target is basically what we called a pitchback when I was younger, except this one is much stronger and more sturdy than I remember. It has two sides that can be utilized. On one side is a net that is pulled tightly to the metal frame. When a ball is thrown to the net, it bounces back to the user. The ball will bounce better if it is thrown towards the middle of the net.
When the comebacker is turned around, a pitching target faces the user. The target has a picture of a catcher holding a target for a pitcher. Behind the target is a pouch that baseballs can fall into. So basically, when a strike is thrown, the ball falls into the pouch. When a strike is not thrown, the ball hits the rest of the mat and falls harmlessly to the ground.
While the words "5-Tool" are in the name of this product, not all 5-tools are worked, obviously. There are no hitting or running drills that can be practiced. The Training Comebacker does allow for work with the fundamentals of throwing and fielding (although the fielding work is not as easily accomplished as the packaging may lead you to believe).
Where to Find the Cal Ripken Baseball 5-Tool Training Comebacker and Pitching Target
The easiest place to find the Cal Ripken Baseball 5-Tool Training Comebacker and Pitching Target is online. The product is manufactured by Rawlings, one of the leaders in baseball equipment, so you can go to their website to purchase this product and learn more about it.
Another great place to look is Amazon. At Amazon you can read all about this training device as well as reviews from other users. You also might be able to find it at a reduced price.
eBay is another place to find the comebacker. You can definitely find good deals if you look long enough. Some of the training equipment might be used, but that will just help you get a better price.
Don't forget about Craigslist. Again, it might be used, but you can easily negotiate a good price as well as go pick it up yourself since most people buy locally on Craigslist.
Me? Well, my son got it as a gift, so I do not have experience purchasing this product from anywhere else.
Pros of the Cal Ripken Comebacker and Pitching Target
This baseball training device has a lot of good features working for it.
- It is sturdy. The metal frame fits together well, and the device holds up well under the stress of baseballs constantly being thrown at it. The bungee cords that hold the net to the frame are not necessarily easy to arrange, but the stay tight and strong. The frame comes with stakes to hold it in the ground, but I have never had to use them. I have not had a problem with the device moving backwards when baseballs make contact.
- The net is strong. Almost too strong. While my young son does not have much trouble with throwing hard, older people who thrown with a decent velocity on their throws will find that the ball may get thrown back over their heads. This can be trouble when playing in a backyard with fences separating you and the neighbors.
- You can adjust the angle of the net. It can be set to be almost straight up or leaned back almost all the way to a 45 degree angle to the ground. This helps work on how the baseballs are returned to the user.
- The pitching target is a good way to know if you are throwing strikes. If the pitch is in the strike zone, the ball will fall into the pouch. Someone can start with a bucket of balls, throw to the pitching target, and then walk to the target once all of the balls have been thrown.
- It is a great way to practice baseball all by yourself. Baseball is a hard game to practice solo. After all, one person cannot play catch with themselves. With the Cal Ripken Comebacker, learning the fundamentals without a partner is possible.
- It can fold down for easy storage.
Cons of the Cal Ripken Comebacker and Pitching Target
But as with most things, there are some drawbacks of the Cal Ripken Comebacker and Pitching Target.
- It purports to help someone field ground balls. However, in my experience, that is not possible. The best way to get the net to send the balls back on the ground is to aim for the top of the net. However, when this is done, the net does not shoot the ball back as well as it does if you hit the center of the net. So the groundballs that come back are not as difficult as you might want them to be. It is probably possible to practice fielding balls on the ground if you back up. But if you do that, it will be harder to hit the target.
- While the height and angle of the device can be adjusted, in my experience the adjustment mechanism of the support arms does not hold the height very well. At least on one side. Maybe this is just a fault of my particular device.
These are the only two issues I have found.
Other Cal Ripken 5-Tool Training Devices
Besides the Comebacker and Pitching Target, Rawlings manufactures other Cal Ripken 5-Tool baseball training devices, including:
- Multi Tee to help improve hitting power and average as well as work on the swing plane.
- Swing Chute uses resistance training for bat speed, average, and power.
- One Hand Bat Trainer for use with soft toss and batting tee drills.
- Resistance Ball to strengthen the muscles of the shoulder and back.
- Many others.
What's the Verdict on the Comebacker and Pitching Target?
All in all, the 5-Tool Comebacker and Pitching Target by Rawlings is a good way to practice baseball fundamentals and drills. Hours can be spent practicing throwing accuracy without the need for another person. Pitching accuracy can also be practiced with the pitching target. There are a couple of drawbacks, but there are enough good things about the device to recommend adding it to your existing baseball training lessons.