Choosing the Right Pitching Machine
A pitching machine is a tool that, when used properly, can benefit a player enormously as well as improve the quality and efficiency of baseball or softball hitting drills.
Whether refining a player’s baseball or softball hitting technique or working on fielding practice, a pitching machine can literally function as an extra coach. That having been said, most consumers are quickly overwhelmed by all of the variations of baseball and softball pitching machines available.
Questions of age appropriateness, features, the many different balls, etc are all important and need to be addressed. First off, a baseball pitching machine, when used for hitting practice helps refine the swing, no matter the age of the player. However, the particular skills and interest level of the player is an important factor. Too much of a machine can prove frustrating as can unreasonable expectations. This is true for players coming out of coach pitch or T-Ball. Some are comfortable with the challenge of a faster, more realistic pitch while for others are intimidated.
Two things to bear in mind:
1. Hitting a baseball or softball is one of the most difficult skills in all of sports. A young player accustomed to rainbow pitches in coach pitch will, naturally, find the speed of even the entry level machines challenging. However, a lobbed pitch actually instills bad habits, such as upper-cutting, trying to lift the ball and thus the sooner the batter learns to practice with a realistic pitch, the better.
2. The pitching machine you choose should be capable of speeds of at least 45mph+ from the standard Little League distance of 45 ft. from the batter. Assuming that a realistic pitch can be thrown at less speed from this distance is simply not true. Any slower speed would require lofting the ball, thus producing an arch that would have you essentially back at a pitch similar to coach pitch…and as such will be of no practical use.
Apart from batting practice, a pitching machine is can be an excellent practice tool for fielding flies and grounders. It’s like having an expert coach that never fouls a ball off or wiffs a toss and thus practice is that much more valuable. If a player is very young, their hitting skills will improve with time. But if they’re having difficulty adjusting to the faster pitch, take it easy and stress the fielding aspect of the machine. Two Good choices for this level of play are: The Heater Jr. Pitching Machine and the .
One of the features customers are most interested in is the top speed of any of our machines. And we’ve got speed (90+mph with the Casey Pro 3G and 70 mph with the Bata B1) but speed isn’t everything.
Using a pitching machine at the highest speed, straight down the pipe every time is actually a bad practice. It encourages an unrealistic atmosphere for what the batter will face in actual game situations. It also encourages mindlessly swinging at every pitch. Better to practice and to use the targeting aspect of the machine to work on the inside and outside corners, to train the batter to think at the plate in terms of game situations, e.g. a runner on second doesn’t need to have the ball hit in front of him or her, therefore the batter should be looking for an outside pitch to take to the opposite field, hitting behind the runner and so forth.
Choose a pitching machine that can be targeted up and down and on the corners and most importantly, use these features. With the more advanced pitching machines (those that allow curves and sliders) you can hone the batter’s skills for every imaginable baseball hitting situation. Also, as with the Heater Pro you can adjust the head to simulate either left or right-handed pitching, making for a truly versatile, real game experience.
Youth League (Baseball and Softball)
Pitching machines are popular in youth leagues because they deliver safe, reliable pitches. This helps young players develop skills with consistency and without fear of being hit by an errant pitch.
• A single-motor machine capable of pitching at 50 mph or more is usually sufficient.
• Choose a complete machine that is either portable or compatible with a movable cart for transport.
• Look for a lightweight model that is easy to set up, and offers the features you will need in a typical practice.
• The machine suitable to this level of need are the The Jugs Lite Flite.
High School, Collegiate, and Professional (Baseball & Softball)
At this level, pitching machines should deliver fast pitches and a variety of pitch types.
• Two-wheel, dual-motor machines are most appropriate.
• Choose a machine with many pitching options (left, right, curve, fastballs, etc.) and a maximum speed of 75 mph or more.
• Keep portability in mind if you'll need to set it up in a new place for each practice or training session.
Softball (All Levels)
Pitching machines used for softball should come equipped with options specific to the sport. It's helpful to acquaint yourself with the pitching machine features that are intended for softball play.
• A softball pitching machine should be built to release underhand throws.
• Look for a machine that will accommodate fastpitch and slowpitch play, depending on your skill level.
• Some machines are convertible, using a differently shaped chute for baseball and softball.
• Machines for this category are the Bata 1 Softball & Heater Softball.
Pitching Machine Peripherals
- Feeder A feeder holds a quantity of balls and lets them into the machine one at a time.
- Feeders are usually purchased separately from the machine.
- Make sure you buy a machine that is feeder-compatible if you plan to use it without human help.
- Power Source, most pitching machines operate on 110vAC/1000 watts.
Whichever pitching machine you choose, first and foremost remember to have fun developing your baseball hitting and softball hitting skills.
A pitching machine is simply a tool.
In the final analysis, how the tool is incorporated into hitting drills and fielding drills and its effectiveness depends upon a relaxed atmosphere for the player.
Concentrate on technique. A solid stroke, able to command the entire plate, is your ultimate goal.