Batting is difficult!
Softballs and baseballs can travel anywhere from 60 to 100 miles per hour. That’s a tiny target coming at breakneck speed.
The only way to become great at batting is to practice over and over again until the muscle memory is ingrained!
Baseball is unique in the sense that it’s often practice that separates the winners from the losers rather than talent. This rings true for any player from Little League to Major League Baseball.
That’s why getting your very own pitching machine comes in handy.
With a pitching machine you can practice your swing without a partner, whenever you like, for as long as you want. It’s a perfect training tool!
There are a ton of different pitching machines on the market, all of which offer vastly different features which makes setting them up a key part of it working properly.
If you’re considering buying your very own pitching machine, the sheer amount of options can be rather overwhelming.
That’s why we’ve picked out the best of the best to help you find the perfect batting partner.
How Does A Pitching Machine Work?
A pitching machine sends the ball spinning through a series of wheels and levers which simulates how a pitch is thrown in real life.
The realism of this pitch is what separates the good pitching machines from the great ones!
There are two conventional designs of pitching machines:
- Circular wheel machines
- Arm action machines
Circular wheel machines move the ball through a series of one to three spinning wheels that pitch the ball.
They’re more flexible than arm-action machines (which imitate the actual way balls are thrown using a bracket, much like a human arm) and are able to simulate flyballs or groundballs.
Benefits Of Using A Pitching Machine
Of course, the main reason why you’d want to use a pitching machine is that you don’t need an actual pitcher to practice your swing.
Having a machine around to do it means that you can practice by yourself (in the case of automatic pitchers) or that the strain on your team pitcher is lessened (when it comes to team practice).
A pitching machine can also be a long-term investment for younger players that may need time to develop the hand-eye coordination required to hit the ball.
They often need a lot more training to get to a somewhat average batting rate, and pitching machines can help them get there without the usual strain required from having their coach hand-pitch the ball every time.
Pitching machines also outshine human pitchers in one aspect: consistency.
Pitchers can get tired after an extended period of training, which can be a problem if you’re practicing with an entire team.
A pitching machine can deliver the exact kind of pitch a human would throw without tiring, and can even adjust pitches on the fly!
Use In Little League Matches
In Little League matches or games that involve younger players, pitching machines are commonly used in game instead of the children pitching themselves.
They offer some consistency when it comes to throwing a solid pitch, and can be adjusted to take into account the skill of the batter.
Pitching Machine Buying Guide: What Makes A Good Pitching Machine?
When buying a pitching machine, there’s a couple of key factors that you should keep in mind.
Not all of them are created equal, and while we’ve certainly picked the best of the best in the following list, some of them work better in specific situations than others.
Pitchers can throw at different rotations and speeds, and it’s essential to find a machine that can offer you some variety or else the trainee might develop some bad habits.
While Little League players can expect more or less the same kind of pitch each time, older players will have to deal with things like fastballs, curveballs, or even grounders.
Experience is the best teacher, and getting a pitching machine that can throw a variety of pitches can make all the difference in training.
Pitching machines come in all sorts of shapes and sizes—some can be lugged by hand, and others might need heavy lifting to transport.
The decision to get an especially portable pitching machine mainly depends on where you expect to get the most use out of it.
If you’re going to be bringing one out to an actual field, getting a portable one can be the most useful; but if you’re installing it in a batting cage, this becomes less of an issue.
Wheels refer to the discs that the ball goes through when it gets pitched from a circular wheel pitching machine. They generally come in two types:
- Solid pitching machine tires (much like the wheels you see on a lawnmower)
- Pneumatic pitching machine tires (think of car tires, but much smaller)
Generally, solid pitching wheels are much more preferable than air-filled ones. They can last longer, throw more consistently fast pitches, and can recover between throws twice as fast.
You also don’t need to worry about things like air pressure or flattening—which are the two common complaints when it comes to pneumatic wheels.
A pitching machine can weigh anywhere from 30 to 100-plus pounds.
You’ll need to account for that when it comes to bringing the machine around with you, as well as the vehicle you’ll be using to transport it.
Most vans and trailer trucks can comfortably lug around pitching equipment, but you may need more than one person to carry it.
Power System (Manual vs. Battery Powered)
Some pitching machines require electricity to operate, while others can be spring-loaded and don’t need things like generators to work.
Some of them have internal batteries that can run for a while before needing to be recharged, while others require a constant supply of power to operate.
Just remember when and where you’ll be using your machine the most, and that should guide you on the power system that you should be looking for!
Finally, consider the reason why you’re getting a pitching machine in the first place.
Since the different design factors above determine the use of the machine, you need to ask yourself questions like:
- Will only one person be using this machine or will an entire team practice with it?
- Do I need an automatic ball-feeding mechanism?
- What kind of pitches (or speeds) am I looking for?
- What’s the age of the player/s using this machine?
These are all very useful in determining the purpose of the pitching machine you’re looking for, which can help you make a better decision in choosing one.
Price Point Expectations
We all want a good bargain—and pitching machines are no exception.
While not all of us can afford all the bells and whistles professional players can get with their tools, there are some expectations that we can reasonably fulfill depending on how much cash are we willing to shell out.
Pitching machines in this category are usually the top of the line for most players outside professional leagues.
The machines in this category can often throw every kind of pitch at every speed imaginable, they will usually require direct power to operate, and they will be built to last for a really long time.
You can expect every machine at this price point to be fully automatic as well.
This is the average price range for most pitching machines, so the features of this price point will be a little broad.
For the most part, depending on the maker and material; you’ll be looking at a relatively portable, automatic machine that can throw good fastballs.
Machines at this price point offer a good balance between features and price but might be a little lacking in certain things like ball-carrying capacity, and pitch variety.
Most of the pitching machines in this price range aren’t automatic, which can be a little iffy for players who are looking to practice by themselves.
But these cheaper models often make up for it by being some of the most portable pitching machines on the market.
Keep the budget in mind when you’re browsing the reviews below, we’ve tried to include a range of products to suit different budgets.
Each pitching machine that we’ve listed is definitely worth the investment at its price point, but just keep in mind that there will be quality differences depending on the price range.
Pitching Machine Reviews
Now that we’ve gotten all the essentials out of the way, here’s our list of the seven best pitching machines available in 2021:
#1 JUGS Lite-Flite Machine For Baseball And Softball
The most trusted machine in pitching.
- Full machine movements offer the most extensive variety of pitches
- Can be easily adjusted from softball to baseball
- Best used with specific types of baseballs
Don’t be fooled by the JUGS small size; it’s consistently been rated one of the best pitching machines ever made.
It’s able to simulate ground balls, pop-ups, and fly balls, this model can even adjust for left or right-handed pitching, making it an excellent option for team practices.
It runs on a 1/8HP, 1.3 Amp motor, and is backed by a 2-year warranty. It’s also lightweight and portable compared to other machines with the same features.
It has a track record of being head and shoulders above other pitching machines when it comes to design and performance.
The huge range of features combined with a reasonable price tag makes it one of the best choices on the market today.
If you want quality, power, and performance in one convenient package, there’s nothing quite like the JUGS Lite-Flite.
#2 Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame Pitching Machine
A perfect warmup machine.
- One of the lightest pitching machines at 25 pounds
- Throws extremely accurate fastballs and groundballs
- Runs on manual power
Anyone who’s into baseball or softball knows the reputation of the Louisville Slugger.
Aside from making some of the best bats on the market, they’ve also made a pretty good pitching machine that’s well-loved by many teams around the world.
For those who want some good old-fashioned ball action, the infamous Blue Flame is the way to go.
Able to accurately throw a variety of balls in a variety of ways, it’s the machine of choice for many university teams around the world due to its reliable performance and accurate pitching.
While the lack of an automated ball feeder or pitcher can be a turnoff for some, it’s a welcome design for many players who want to train the traditional way.
#3 ATEC Power Streak Baseball / Softball Training Machine, 110-Volt
Preferred by the pros.
- The adjustable height means more pitch variety
- Extremely lightweight and portable
- Requires the specific SFT balls to use
The ATEC is the pitching machine of choice of many professional players, and it’s easy to see why.
With the sheer variety of settings available for different kinds of pitches, it’s perfect for training both defensive plays and batting practice.
While not as fast or as fancy as the higher-end machines, the specs on this model make it a great option for certified pros and up-and-coming talent on the field.
It runs on a 110V power supply or a 600W generator which makes it one of the most portable machines on the market.
Its reliable performance is backed by the testimonies of many professional players.
And with a reasonable price tag and 1-year warranty, the ATEC is definitely a machine to look into if you’re looking for a pitching machine that could take you to the big leagues.
#4 Jugs BP1 Baseball/Softball Combo Pitching Machine
A stepping stone to the bigger games.
- Can throw from 15 to 70 mph with pinpoint accuracy
- 360-degree movement for different kinds of pitches
- Somewhat difficult to find and purchase
One of the best middle-tier pitching machines of its kind, the Jugs BP1 is a reliable tool in training young athletes for baseball or softball.
The digital readout displays the exact speed at which the ball will be thrown, allowing you a higher degree of control when it comes to training your players for different ball speeds.
You can even use all sorts of balls with this model, like dimpled or seam.
It’s a little bit on the heavy side—about 75 lbs—and does require power to operate.
However, it provides some incredible performance and durability, especially compared to other devices at the same price point.
All in all, it’s a great training aid for any aspiring young athlete.
#5 Zooka: ZS740 Pitching Machine with Tall Tripod
Introducing digital pitches.
- No spinning wheels and no moving parts
- Automatic ball feeder
- Requires power to operate
The Zooka ZS740 is one of the few pitching machines that has a digital control panel, aside from having an internally rechargeable battery pack.
It’s a modern machine that’s extremely easy to use for both solo and team practice and can offer a variety of speeds for both batting and fielding.
It launches balls via air compression and can be programmed for a variety of different pitches—even randomized ones!
However, it’s entirely dependent on power to operate.
Thankfully, the battery is good for about 500 pitches before it needs recharging: good enough for a whole day of practice.
Keep in mind that the machine may not perform as well as the battery gets weaker, so it will require regular maintenance to be kept in top condition.
#6 Franklin Sports MLB Super Star Baseball Batter
Perfect For Little League Player.
- Adjust angle for soft pitch, fast pitch, ground balls, and pop flies
- Ball feeder can hold up to 9 balls
- Requires batteries to use
As we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s the younger players that usually see the most benefit when it comes to pitching machines—and the MLB Super Star Baseball Batter is an excellent way to introduce your kid to baseball.
Whether they’re at the bat or catching the ball, this easy-to-operate machine can help them build the basics that they’ll rely on for the rest of their baseball career.
It requires 4 ‘C’ size batteries to operate, is exceptionally lightweight, portable, and carries a reasonable price tag. This is a great model for kids and young adults.
#7 Hack Attack Baseball Pitching Machine By Sports Attack
Perfect for adult players at the university level.
- Can accurately replicate left and right-handed pitches
- Pitches fastballs, curveballs, and sliders
- Somewhat pricey compared to its competitors
This hand-fed pitching machine is best used outdoors, though it can also function well inside batting cages.
The throwing head can pivot in all directions for a variety of pitch options, and the three-wheel design can be easily adjusted to throw a variety of pitches.
With a five-year warranty, this is one of the more durable and long-lasting pitching machines on the market.
The downside is that it’s also one of the most expensive models, making it a better investment for a team than as an individual.
It also requires power to work, which can be a dealbreaker for players or coaches who need portability.
5 Tips For Using Your New Pitching Machine
Just buying the pitching machine is only half the work.
You may have the best model money can buy, but if you don’t know how to properly use it, you’re no better off practicing with a friend in their backyard or pratcing by yourself.
Here are some ways that you can get the best use out of your pitching machine:
Tip 1: Keep Regulation Distances In Mind
Depending on your league and game, there are different distances from the pitcher’s mound to home base, and you need to set your pitching machine accordingly.
Your ball settings (including pitch and speed) can be received well or poorly by the batter/catcher depending on the distance set, so always remember how far away or how close the machine needs to be.
Tip 2: Speed And Distance Are Always Related
It’s simple physics: even if the speed of your pitch remains constant, the closer the batter is, the sooner the ball will arrive at their location.
This can create a “strike” zone that can easily slip by most coaches or players that fail to account for this distance without adjusting the speed of the ball.
Since pitching machines can’t really compensate for this distance like players can, it falls on the coach or trainer to make sure that this doesn’t happen.
Tip 3: Mix Up Your Pitches!
One of the reasons why higher-quality pitching machines have the ability to throw different sorts of pitches is to accurately replicate how a real-life pitcher might play.
While it can be tempting to set the machine at a consistent setting to boost your hit rate, real players will often mix up their pitches throughout the game.
So if you want to prepare yourself for a real-life game, try your best to mix up the pitching settings as often as possible.
Tip 4: Maintain Your Machine After Every Game
Whether it’s manual or automatic, pitching machines will need some sort of maintenance every now and then to make sure they’re in top condition.
Remember to check for areas where the ball moves through like the wheels or feeder, and make sure that electronic and moving parts are working as intended.
Your training will only be as good as your equipment—which is why keeping your pitching machine in top shape is crucial.
Tip 5: Wear Protective Gear
This usually goes without saying, but there are still some cases where players can forget to wear things like batting helmets when training with pitching machines. This is a recipe for disaster!
Since each pitch from one of these machines is more or less consistent, it can be tempting to ditch the safety equipment altogether.
But you can never be too careful! Pitching machines throw balls at extremely high speeds, and the impact can be potentially lethal.
It doesn’t matter how confident you are in the consistency of your machine; throwing a helmet on is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Pitching Machine FAQs
Can Any Pitching Machine Be Used For Softball And Baseball?
The two sports are very similar, but there are certain kinds of pitches and speeds that baseball has that softball can’t come close to.
Pitching machines are usually designed for one sport or the other unless otherwise specified in the model’s specs.
My Pitching Machine Doesn’t Seem To Be Throwing Balls As Fast As It Used To
If you find your pitches don’t match the speed that you’ve set (this is easy to check with a radar gun), take a look at discs that the ball goes through.
If your machine has solid wheels, applying sandpaper to achieve friction should do the trick. If your machine has air-filled tires, checking the pressure of the tires.
What Voltages Do Pitching Machines Normally Use?
For both portable and non-portable variants, the usual voltage required for consistent performance and output is 110vAC/1000 watts.
Any less and the machine will start to perform poorly and can even break under the strain.
Do I Need A Practice Field In Order To Use A Pitching Machine?
Since you can adjust the speed (and the distance) of the pitches, you can definitely use one in your own backyard with a pitching net. For more information on the best baseball pratice nets [Read our Full Guide]
Just remember to tweak the settings for your environment, and you should be good to go.
Is It A Good Idea To Buy A Spare Battery Pack For My Pitching Machine?
If your model uses battery packs, it’s not really necessary to get extras unless you’re planning on hauling it cross-country or are worried about power issues.
Most battery-powered pitching machines can last for an extended session of training or more before needing to be recharged.
On Choosing The Right Ball
Some machines can function well with any type of ball, especially the ones that are used in Little League games.
Since they’re considered a training device, the focus is primarily on training players to consistently hit the ball.
However, in high school leagues and beyond, it’s an entirely different situation.
Since the machines in these divisions are used a lot more than ones in amateur matches, there’s often a suggested kind of ball—usually from the same brand of the pitching machine—that’s best used with them.
This is to ensure that the performance of each pitch is consistent, and the wear and tear suffered by the machine is reduced.
If in doubt, you can always consult the manufacturer’s website or the instructions that came with your pitching machine to check if it needs a particular type or brand of ball.
Pitching Machine Accessories
Aside from all the essential parts of a pitching machine, there are a few odds and ends you can get to make their use and operation a little easier:
For lightweight and portable models (40 pounds and below), a carrying bag is an easy way to lug around your pitching machine.
These models often fold or separate into different parts, which can be cumbersome to carry without the proper bag.
Carrying bags often have space for both the machine and the balls, with some providing spaces for batteries or electronics.
Cover (Feeder Cover)
For auto-feeding models, it’s crucial to get a feeder cover so your machine doesn’t get affected by the elements.
Since most auto-feeders are usually left in the open, getting the proper protective cover can help reduce the wear and tear that most machines experience throughout their lifetime.
For bigger models that you need to move around, a transport kit is a good investment to make, especially if you find yourself practicing with a team.
Transport kits attach easily to most pitching machines and can be folded or tucked away when not in use.
Again, it’s essential to keep in mind the reasons why you need a pitching machine before you make the decision to purchase one.
Always take into account the budget and needs of the players when it comes to purchasing a pitching machine—that’s the best way to make sure you get the most out of your money’s worth.
With the variety of brands, features, and designs on the market, finding your ideal pitching machine isn’t easy.
But putting in the time and effort into diligent research will definitely pay off on the field.
After all, your game can only be as good as your training, and pitching machines offer some of the best training that money can buy.
Pitching machines can vastly improve the training and performance of any player who wants to take the sport seriously.
Whether they’re used by a team or an aspiring solo player, pitching machines can help you get an edge that takes your game to the next level.