The Zooka ZS 740 Pitching Machine is a great fit for certain situations. This is a very lightweight machine that will throw accurate fastballs up to 70 MPH. It is unique in its barrel and compressor style throwing. You load a baseball into the barrel and it shoots it out like a cannon. The best part of this machine is that it has an internal rechargeable battery so you can take it anywhere to use. This is especially handy for those that have practice fields that have no electricity. For a total cost of under $800 it would be difficult to find another machine that throws at these speeds that has its own power source. It is also great at throwing fly balls for defensive drills.
JUGS Softie Practice Baseballs are a little pricey at $50 per dozen, however the superior quality they have over other indoor practice baseballs make it worth the extra money. They are made with real leather and weigh the official weight of 5 1/4 ounces, however are safe for indoor use with its spongy composition. If you are in a cold weather state these indoor baseballs are almost a must have. We practice approximately two months indoors and using indoor baseballs that most simulate a real baseball is very important to me. The dozen JUGS Softie Practice Baseballs I purchased a few years back has held up through the rough usage by 14 year old boys. They survived much longer than other indoor baseballs I purchased in the past. Durability coupled with them being actual weight make them worth the extra money you will pay. Being actual weight is especially important when working on pitching indoors.
I have a finance background and a term I use a lot is "cost benefit". Basically that means you measure the benefit you will get from something compared to the cost you pay for the item. I bring that up because when you apply this to the First Pitch Baseline Pitching Machine, you will find quite a bit of benefit compared to the cost you will pay for it. At just under $650 you will get an American made machine that is built as sturdy as pitching machines come. First Pitch is so confident in their pitching machine they have given it a 5 year warranty. The tires and the motor is the same motor you will find on the machines that cost twice as much as the First Pitch model. First Pitch Baseline throws fastballs only as baseball speeds up to 70 MPH (from 60' 6") and approx. 60 MPH for softballs. I have found the machine to very accurate and it is lightweight enough (55lbs) that you can transport it to a practice quite easily.
One of the smartest purchases I made for my youth baseball team was my Sports Radar Gun 3600. I use this gun in my practices and also use a radar gun that is at our local batting cage facility (that is a much pricier radar gun) and I found them to be very close to each other in the speeds they are registering. I do not use my radar gun to see how hard the kids are throwing, I use the radar gun to check on pitch speed differentials between fastballs, curveballs, and change-ups. Changing speeds is one of the most critical things a pitcher needs to do. If a pitcher only has one speed, no matter how hard, eventually good hitters will get their timing on it. We spend a lot of time at practice measuring the speed of the fastball and then making sure the off speed pitches are 6-10 MPH slower than their fastball. The Sports Radar Gun 3600 is very accurate in measuring this. Additionally, it is very light weight and portable to take to practices.
Heater (Trend Sports) specialty is fitting into the youth age group (6-12) at a very affordable price compared to other batting cages and pitching machines. With that being said I think it is important for everyone purchasing any of their products know what they are designed for. I would have no problem recomending these products to that age group and also point out to them it is at the affordable price level because it doesn't typically last as long as other products. Their products are great in many situations, however some thought needs to be put into the purchase before going with Heater products.
I am in the second year of using my Morrow Sports A Frame pitchers protective screen. The first thing that jumps out at you is that it is in the shape of an "A" versus the usual shape of a "L" for pitchers protective screen. I would say both styles will give you equal protection as I have been pretty lucky in not having been hit by a batted ball while throwing batting practice using either type screen. It does take some time to get use to the "A" shape versus the "L" shape since I had used the "L" for my entire life. It is very well constructed and both the netting and frame is very durable and appears that it will last a long time. It is relatively lightweight at 32 pounds.
I have had my JUGS Instant Screen Hitting Net for just under ten years and it still works as well as the day I first used it. I would say that its durability is the biggest strength of this net. It has lasted for 9 years and numerous indoor and outdoor practices. We have used it for tee work, soft toss work, and even used it as a makeshift L-screen for protection when throwing batting practice. The 7 x 8 hitting area has been adequate for these drills. Although we do have the occasional ball hit over the top of the net. I would say we have more than got our moneys worth on this screen.
I have been using my JUGS Lite Flite Machine for just over 3 years and it has helped me run a much more efficient indoor practice. I first incorporated it by having indoor batting practice. Our gym has a net that will split it in half, so I pull the net out set the machine up and have them take 12 swings on fastballs, 12 swings on curveballs, and then have them bunt 12 pitches. I have 3 boys spread out in the gym to shag the balls. I put the machine approximately 25 feet from the hitter in order to avoid the balls from "floating" in. A draw back is if you set the machine too far back the balls will have the appearance of floating in, which is very difficult to hit. The hitters adjust pretty quickly to it being this close and it actually helps with developing quick hands.
I have discovered through years of trial and error that the order of the drills you do in practice is just as important as the drills themselves. Every practice should start with jogging and stretching to loosen up the muscles. From there, drills should progress in sequence in order to accomplish an end goal for the practice.
Over the years having been through more pre-games than I can remember I have developed a pre-game routine that I like and think gets the boys ready to play. I have learned that I had to invest some money into a few products to make it effective, but it has been a cheap investment for what I have obtained from it.