Outdoor Toy Test 4: ESPN Better Batter

Does it Work Wednesday
Outdoor Toy Test 4: ESPN Better Batter

By: Lauren Keith

The final Outdoor Toy Test takes us to home plate.  The starting line-up: the $40 ESPN Better Batter by Fisher Price.  It claims the "Tee-Free design" helps your beginner keep his or her eye on the ball. First grader Troy Carman of Cape Girardeau helps me out with this test.
When Troy flips the "on" switch, the very loud ESPN SportsCenter theme song plays.
"That's loud!" laughs Troy.
But if it can turn Troy or any child into a "better batter", some parents might think it's worth hearing that ESPN jingle over and over again.  Fisher Price and ESPN claim this tee-free design helps kids keep their eye on the ball....so, batter up! 
Troy swings as the Better Batter system automatically loads the first of three balls.  The batter taps the plate to get the system to automatically load.  At first, Troy misses.  That tells us we need to adjust the height adjustment.  After we do that, Troy smacks the balls out of the park!
What a difference that makes! However, even though he's hitting strong, Troy starts to grow tired of the Better Batter system.
"Do I have to do that again?"
Troy doesn't like dragging the the black arm back down and tapping the plate so the balls will automatically load. 
"That red basket and black arm thing gets in the way," says Troy.
However, he manages to swing around that problem.  Still, he's a bit disappointed with the $40 ESPN Better Batter, and so is his mom, Lana.
"I think it's okay, I don't think there's any substitute for real pitching.   My three boys wouldn't play with it, and I know Troy wouldn't," she says.
"I like Mom and Dad pitching to me better," says Troy.
It seems even though Troy is just one step above the tee-ball league, he's already out-grown the Better Batter. After looking at the pictures on the box, I'm a bit disappointed when seeing in person, the gray bat it comes with actually is like one used in wiffle ball.  The balls attach to the tee with velcro. I must point out: this might work better for true beginners.
"It's okay. I wouldn't play with it much," says Troy.
"We pitch to him at regular distance and he hits to the road, so i think it's a little disappointing."
Disappointing---most definitely----techinically though, it does work, just not scoring a home run for the Carmans, or me, really. The ESPN Better Batter doesn't strike out. It scores a "C" on this Does it Work Wednesday test.