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How to Buy a Pitching Machine

Pitching machines can be a very important part of a coaches or parents’ practice with their players or children. Experienced baseball and softball players use these machines to hone their swinging technique or defensive skills and can learn to hit all types of breaking balls with effectiveness on these powerful machines. Younger players will develop much faster using pitching machines as it gives them an opportunity to work on the proper mechanics without fear of wild pitches and injury or having to hit off of coaches who “lob” the ball. First and foremost teaching the proper mechanics is the most important part of coaching youth baseball and then practicing those mechanics over and over again using the proper equipment including pitching machines follows that. Buying a pitching machine should be a long term investment, so you want to make sure you take the time to pick the right machine.

Types of Machines

Features

  • Wheels
  • Swivel
  • Vertical Pivot
  • Motor
  • Peripherals

Type of Machines

You'll find pitching machines everywhere from backyards, little league practices, college practice, all the way to the major leagues. There is a machine made for every need and there a price points for everyone.

Small Ball

Small ball machines were designed as a hitting aid. They feature balls that at 5 in/0.5 oz are smaller than a normal baseball and the purpose of them is to make the hitter focus on keeping their eye on the ball developing good hand-eye coordination.

Soft Toss

Soft toss machines were designed as a hitting aid. They toss a baseball or softball in an arcing fashion so the hitter can focus on hitting mechanics.  Soft toss machines help develop hitting rhythm, bat speed, and hand-eye coordination. These machines are great for hitters just starting out or for more experienced hitters looking to fine tune their skills.

Youth League

Pitching machines are popular in youth leagues because they deliver safe, reliable, and accurate pitches. This helps young players develop skills with consistency and without fear of being hit by a wild pitch and helps to speed games up by cutting down on hitters walking. There are many pitching machines that are designed to be used for pitching machine leagues.

  • A single-motor machine throwing at top speeds of approximately 50 mph 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.
  • If practice time is critical and the machine will be used for fielding drills make sure to get a machine with a 360 degree pivot for practice efficiency.
  • Many youth league pitching machines work with both RIF and standard balls.

High School, Collegiate, and Professional

Machines at this level should deliver pitches that will exceed 80 MPH and have the ability to throw a wide variety of pitches including breaking balls, knuckle balls, and cut fastballs.

  • Two-wheel, dual-motor machines are most appropriate.
  • Choose a machine with many pitching options (left, right, curve, fastballs, etc.) and a machine that can throw speeds of 80 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. Consider a cart for mobility of the machine.
  • 360 degree pivot is also a key feature to have the ability to use for ground ball, fly ball, and pop up drills during practice time.
  • Some of these higher level machines have the capability of "dial a pitch" which means you just turn a dial to the speed and another dial to the pitch type. Other machines have "micro adjustments" which allows the ability to adjust pitches fractions from pitch to pitch simulating real life pitchers.

Softball

Softball pitching machines should be made for the variety of pitches and the different release point that are specific to softball.

  • A softball pitching machine should be built to release underhand throws.
  • Look for a machine that will accommodate fast and slow-pitch play, as well as risers and drops, depending on your skill level.
  • Machines throwing at speeds of approximately 60 MPH are usually sufficient for softball usage.

Combination

  • There are several models that come in baseball/softball combination pitching machines.
  • These machines usually come with tools that will allow you to switch from baseball to softball in a matter of minutes.
  • Combination pitching machines can be great for organizations on a budget as you can get a pitching machine that will throw for both baseball and softball at a reasonable price.

Features

Wheels

  • Most pitching machines function with one or two spinning wheels that project the ball upon contact.
  • Wheels can be either hard rubber or pneumatic (air filled).
  • Pitch speed is determined by revolutions per minute.
  • Pitch types, such as curve balls, are affected by variations in wheel speed.

Swivel

  • The head turns on a horizontal plane within a specified number of degrees.
  • Allows you to pitch within a range of space, rather than to a fixed spot every time

Vertical Pivot

  • The pitching machine head rocks front to back, changing the angle of the pitch.
  • Used for defensive practice to simulate fly balls, ground balls, and pop ups.

Motor

  • Most pitching machines are equipped with 1/4 hp motors.
  • One or two motors are standard, and the total horsepower determines maximum pitch speed.

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, however there are machines where feeders come standard.
  • 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.
  • This means that you can plug them into a power source if available, or power them using a generator.
  • If you plan to use a generator, find out what kind the manufacturer recommends before buying.
  • In-Line Switch
    • An in-line switch is a box on the cord that allows the player to turn the machine on and off from the batter's box.
    • This option is a must if you use the machine alone.

Balls

  • Most pitching machines are compatible with any type of baseball or softball, but some are designed to work with specific balls.
  • Check that machines intended for youth league use are compatible with RIF or other training balls.

A pitching machine is a must have for a serious baseball or softball team and can be very beneficial to help an individual player. Pitching machines throw consistent strikes and can throw a wide variety of pitches allowing a hitter to focus on their hitting mechanics, which is the most important thing when learning to hit. Pitching machines come with a wide variety of features and come at a wide variety of price points, so do your research to make sure you are getting the right pitching machine for you.

Unique-Sports has been a trusted resource for pitching machines and baseball accessories for over 13 years. Unique-Sports is an invaluable on-line resource for baseball players, coaches, youth leagues, and scholastic baseball programs across the United States. The Unique-Sports team is comprised of former baseball players, current baseball coaches, and baseball enthusiasts that have hands on experience with the various pitching machines that are available. We carry all of the top brands from JUGS, ATEC, FirstPitch, Heater, Zooka, and more.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-800-297-0747. A member of the Unique-Sports team will be happy to discuss any pitching machine you are interested in. We are also available to help you customize a solution for your exact needs, or make equipment recommendations based on intended use. We have the lowest prices on-line…guaranteed!

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