How To Choose A Pitching Machine
Posted on July 16, 2013
Before we start, let me just add one thought on how I believe ballplayers are made.
FIRST. you must learn the proper mechanics!
SECOND. you do it over and over and over again!
The player that has the privilege of being able to hit just by walking out his back door is at an unbelievable advantage when compared to the player who can’t. He is as fortunate as a player can ever be for this is the absolute number one tool that a player can have to become the best ballplayer he possibly can become.
I once asked a coach if he ever had a player with a backyard pitching machine setup who didn’t turn into a good hitter. He thought for a minute before he said, “No, I don’t think I ever have.”
If you can hit, a coach will always find a position for you!
So You Want To Buy a Pitching Machine?
For most people buying a pitching machine is a one-time purchase, so you sure want to make the right decision and not have to live with the wrong machine. If you will allow me to help, I may be able to assist you in whittling your selection down to the right choice.
Keep in mind that if you simply read the descriptions below, your gut feeling is most likely going to lead you to the right choice.
I say this because none of the pitching machines sold at Baseball Tips are junk. So if you are caught between two price levels and both are affordable, know that though I believe that there is quality built into all that we sell, more money does buy more machine. You can’t overpay for quality!
The major considerations are.
TYPE OF MACHINES, PRICE, SPACE, PLAYER AGE
Type of Machines
“Real Ball” Throwing Machines:
The Real Ball category are those machines which throw real balls or machine pitch dimple balls (you’ve seen them in yellow or white at the commercial batting cages). Incidentally, both types of baseballs weigh 5 oz.
These machines come in two major categories plus a new category that we’ll discuss shortly.
The categories are:
- Wheel Machines
- Arm Style Machines
- Compressed Air MachinesGenerally, all require a batting cage (there are a few exceptions), most can be purchased with auto-feeders and remote controls for one player operation.
Wheel Style Pitching Machines – (One & Two Wheel Models)
These are the most popular types and are seen in backyards, machine-pitch leagues, high schools, colleges and in pro ball. They consist of a rubber wheel(s), a motor to propel the wheel(s), electronics with speed and direction adjustment knobs and a steel frame attached to a tripod. All run on 110v current, though many fields without power will use a generator. Most can be purchased for baseball only, softball only or in a combination package for multi-sport use.
Single Wheel Machines:
Just what the name implies, these entry-level machines generally throw a straight pitch between approximately 25-70 MPH.
Cost ranges from just over $900 and up.
Then there are a few single wheel curveball machines which have the added feature of the obvious, it can also throw a curveball. I personally prefer the curveball machines for their versatility in throwing the breaking ball from either “hand,” but budget obviously needs to be added into your choice as well.
The price bumps up just beyond $1,200.
Single Wheel Machines
Distinct Advantages are the lower price for a real ball machine and the weight of only 60 lbs for relatively easy transport from car to ballpark etc.
Distinct Disadvantages are that they do not throw the high speeds or variety of pitches that two wheel machines do.
Two Wheel Machines:
These are the biggest sellers. These machines will throw and simulate almost every pitch from any angle, from left or right-handed pitchers at speeds from approximately 25 to well into the 90 plus MPH range. They carry price tags of over $1,500, plus options that are not necessary but do add to the function and enjoyment.
Distinct Advantages are their ability to throw all the different types of pitches and the added bonus of using them for ground balls (not so good with single wheel machines) as well as fly balls and catcher’s pop-ups. They are somewhat portable. The two wheel machines range in weight from 60 lbs to 110 lbs. Some of the older technology machines weigh 150 lbs.
Distinct Disadvantages are that you won’t see the motion of the “pitcher’s arm,” though you will get used to it after some practice. Additionally, as in all wheel type machines, they aren’t consistent with wet, waterlogged balls or swollen balls (for this reason we suggest and also package many of our models with machine pitch dimple balls).
Click to see the Single & Two Wheel Pitching Machines featured at Baseball Tips
Arm Style Pitching Machines
These are the workhorses of many programs from High School and up through the pros.
You’ve seen them at the commercial batting cages….those big green hulks of steel with their red lights warning of the impending pitch. They’ve been around for over 50 years and are really quite civilized and simple, once you get to know them. They can be equipped and changed for baseball or softball. They throw a straight, accurate ball at varied speeds of 25 to 85+ MPH and there is even an entry-level machine that peaks out at 65 MPH and also works well for slow-pitch softball (though the arm throws in an overhand motion). You should consider covering them during the off-season but really, you never have to move them, they are built like Russian tanks.
Rack Fed or Hopper Fed:
There are two types, one which is rack-fed and will hold 38 baseballs or 28 softballs, the other is a hopper-fed model which holds 600 baseballs, obviously less softballs and is the ultimate backyard or Major League toy.I mean serious baseball training tool.
Distinct Advantages are that the player can see the pitcher wind up, so he “triggers” his swing which develops a more realistic timing mechanism. These machines are tough. You can go many years before you need replacement parts (which are cheap and easy to replace). Lubricating a few places is about all the maintenance there is. No auto feed needed as rack version holds plenty and hopper version holds 600 baseballs. The softball hopper machine holds 400.
Distinct Disadvantages are simply that they throw only fastballs and are not really mobile, though the rack-fed models do come equipped with built in wheels & a dolly system.
Click here to see the Arm Style Pitching Machines featured at Baseball Tips
“Lightweight” Throwing Machines:
These machines use baseball sized 2 oz. balls thrown at various speeds (25 to 70 MPH depending on which model). Some throw various pitches from various angles as well. Cages are still advised and portable cages are perfectly matched for the lighter balls. There is a great poly-ball (hollow wiffleball) machine, called the Hit Streak, that will get up to the 55 to 60 MPH range and is absolutely perfect for entry-level players (optional auto feeder package is a must).
Distinct Advantages are low price and the ability to use them with inexpensive portable cages, many of which occupy only 30, 40 or 50 feet, perfect for small backyards.
Auto feeders are available too. Some can optionally operate on auto-type batteries. There is even a rechargeable “power station” that will allow you to take a lightweight pitching machine to parks where no electrical power is available.
Distinct Disadvantages are that they do not throw real baseballs and to some that is not what they are looking for in a pitching machine. They also aren’t built as tough as “real ball” machines.
Options. and Other Considerations:
The final piece of the puzzle is the extras that some want and some don’t.
Auto Feeders are great when a player works out alone a lot of the time. They are simple mechanisms that will allow a ball to enter the pitching machine every 7 or so seconds. The smaller feeders will hold 20 baseballs or 16 softballs and are priced around $300 for real ball machines.
The lightweight machines hold between 24 and 28 balls.
The larger real ball feeders will hold 80 baseballs (no softball version as yet) with a price tag of over $500. Cordless remote controls are also available.
Some lightweight machines have auto feeder options that range from $69 to $99.
Batting Cages – Full sized cages generally are 60 or 70 feet in length, 12 feet in height and 14 feet wide (smaller sizes are available but these cover 85% of the market). Count on $1,500 to $1,900 and please don’t buy junk!
Click here to see the full-size cages featured at Baseball Tips.
Portable cages range from $250 to $350 for lightweight applications and $595 for real baseball machines, depending on size and weight of the required netting.
Click here to see the portable cages found at Baseball Tips.
So How Do You Ultimately Pick?
I think common sense concerning the amount of room you have, your budget and the age of the players will generally whittle it down for you between a real baseball machine or one of the lightweight machines. Young players will use it for more years, though older players may tend to be more serious about trying to get to the next level, so age in and of itself is NOT the determining factor.
Extremely young children, however, need one of the poly-ball or lightweight machines for common sense reasons.
Need more help? Call the good folks at Baseball Tips in Atlanta at 1-800-487-7432 (M-F, 9-6 EST).
Ready to see the best machines from $200 to $2,000?
Click here to see the full line of pitching machines from Baseball Tips
Coach John Peter, presently aged 50 something, is the publisher of Baseball Tips.com and a lifelong student of the greatest game on earth. After being asked to find a more suitable occupation at age 26, many seasons after donning his first uni at age 7, he has transcended his skills into the much more important role of coach and especially as an instructor. He prides himself as never having charged any player or coach for a single lesson! “This game has been wonderful to my family and has afforded me a lifestyle to instruct any local player or coach who seeks my knowledge without charge!”