Hey batter, batter! Swing!
Every great baseball hitter needs to practice their swing, but not every hitter has a great pitcher to help them. This is where pitching machines come in.
They’re consistent, easy-to-use, and most importantly, tireless. If you’re looking to help your kid power up their swing, you should get a pitching machine.
The question is, “Which pitching machine should you buy?”
In this article, I’ll help you go over what features pitching machines have, which ones you should look for, and what I recommend for your little slugger.
I guarantee that by the end, you’ll find the pitching machine that’s a home run for you.
Why Do I Need A Pitching Machine?
As I mentioned earlier, pitching machines are great for practicing your swing.
You just take the pitching machine, load it up with a few balls, and swing until the balls run out. Then, you can just load it back up again and keep swinging some more.
What makes pitching machines great is that you can set them up by yourself.
Motorized pitching machines even let you practice in your own time without relying on somebody else.
Depending on your neighborhood, you can even set them up in your backyard. You don’t have to reserve a field just to practice your swing.
Pitching machines also don’t get tired. They might run out of balls, but you just refill them, and you can keep going. A regular person would get tired after a few pitches.
Another benefit is that pitching machines are also more consistent.
You can practice hitting fast pitches, right-hand pitches, left hand-pitches and more. With the right pitching machine you can work on your weaknesses and improve on your strengths as a hitter.
Can I Just Buy Whatever Is Available?
The market can be fickle, severely limiting your choices and the availability of the exact pitching machine you want.
However, you should at least be aware of what it is you’re buying. Even if you get a good bargain, it won’t mean anything if it’s not what you need.
Pitching machines can be cheap or expensive, but regardless of how much you spend, you want to ensure that you get a good value for your purchase.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because you paid a high price for something that it’s automatically good.
No worries though! I’ll help you figure out what to look for in a good pitching machine so you can weigh your options better. Just knowing what’s out there is already a step closer to a home run.
What Should I Look For In A Good Pitching Machine?
To get to first base, you need to know what to look for in a good pitching machine.
This boils down to knowing what makes a good pitching machine. The following are a few factors you should consider before making a purchase.
Perhaps the first thing you’ll want to consider when buying a pitching machine is finding out what exactly can this machine do.
Let me break down what features pitching machines usually have. This will give you a better idea of what you can expect and also narrow down which features you want to prioritize.
Adjustable Pitch Speed
One of the first few features you should consider is the speed of the pitches. For younger players, you’ll want it to pitch at slower speeds.
This makes it safer for practice and can allow them to build up to faster pitches over time.
Some pitching machines even come with adjustable pitch speeds, allowing you to change it up when you’ve become too comfortable with a certain speed.
An automatic ball feeder makes training with a pitching machine even easier. This way, you can prepare several balls and keep swinging without having to reset every so often.
Battery And Power Source
There are manually-powered and electric-powered pitching machines.
Manually-powered ones are often lighter and more portable since they don’t require a power source or battery to operate, but their pitches are also weaker and slower.
For battery-powered machines, be sure to find one that can keep operating for an entire training session.
Pitch Modes And Options
Some pitching machines have adjustable angles and modes to better suit the hitter’s style. Some have softball and baseball modes, and even others can pitch fastballs, curveballs, and other types of pitches.
Brand And Manufacturer
An important question to ask yourself when buying a pitching machine is whether or not it’s coming from a good and reputable brand.
A good brand goes well beyond advertising. It’s also about developing a good and reliable reputation. This is backed and developed by having good and consistent products and services.
Pitching machines are expected to go through the wringer.
While you can expect your pitching machine to be protected by several years of warranty, getting good support and service is not always expected.
Make sure to read reviews and testimonials about how often their machines break, and how easy it is to get customer support.
Design And Type
There are several types of pitching machines out there, each designed to fulfill a specific purpose.
Make sure to review the pitching machine type and design before purchase to see if it suits your preferences.
Manually-powered pitching machines are often spring-loaded to ensure that pitches are consistent every time. The specially-engineered spring launches the ball at the hitter.
Pitches from these machines are usually the slowest and are usually the safest for very young players.
One common type of automated pitching machine is the wheel-operated kind which come with either one or two wheels. This type lets you adjust the speed and direction of the pitch.
Single-wheel machines are for younger players aged between 5 and 15 years old. These are mainly used for the training of hitting the ball at the speed of 10-60 mph.
Dual-wheel machines, on the other hand, are designed for older and more advanced players as the pitches are much more accurate.
They can also do different types of pitches for more precise training.
Compressed air machines use air to generate force to pitch balls, making them much weaker than wheel-operated machines.
As such, these are much safer for younger baseball/softball players.
When you’re choosing a pitching machine, be aware that some pitching machines only pitch specific ball types.
Some may only pitch softballs, baseballs, or even their own proprietary ball.
While the ideal pitching machine can pitch any type of ball, including regulation leather balls, this may not always fit your budget.
Be sure that you know which ball type would be best for you and your players to ensure that you get the right pitching machine.
Ease Of Use
Pitching machines are designed to help you train.
Using one shouldn’t require an engineering degree. Be sure to look for a machine that doesn’t take too long to assemble and start up.
Some of the best pitching machines come with remote controls and automatic ball feeders, making them a breeze to use.
Nobody wants to drag an entire pitching machine after using up all their energy during training.
This may not be an issue if you’re only setting it up once in your backyard.
However, if you’re going to be bringing your pitching machine to baseball fields for practice all the time, you should look into its portability.
A more rugged and full-featured machine will often be heavier than a simpler machine.
Durability may also be an issue if you choose a more collapsible and portable pitching machine. Make sure to strike a balance and find a compromise that’s right for you.
Cost And Price Point
Pitching machines come in a variety of price points.
This includes the purchase of the actual machine as well as the cost to maintain it.
Price points differ since different machines have different features and come from different brands.
While you may want to buy the cheapest machine you can afford right away, it can often be better to wait and save up for a more expensive model.
An off-brand cheaper model may seem affordable now, but can be less durable and even more costly to maintain in the long run.
As for maintenance, how expensive it is definitely varies depending on what type of machine you get.
Maintaining a simple, portable machine is going to be cheaper than the top-quality heavyweight ones.
How Do I Get the Most Out Of My Pitching Machine?
To get to second base, you need to know how to get the most out of your pitching machine. Let me give you some tips.
Knowing how to use one can help you figure out which one to get, and which one will fit you best.
Work On The Pitches You Struggle With Most
Most of the pitching machines I recommend below have a variety of pitch styles at different speeds.
Practicing to hit only fastballs might be great for your swing speed, but you’ll find it difficult to handle other pitches.
Make the most of your pitching machine by taking advantage of its other settings.
Practice Your Tempo
Real-life pitchers aren’t as consistent as pitching machines.
Make use of the adjustable pitch speeds so you can practice observing a ball as it comes toward you and time your swing perfectly.
This will help you adjust to your opponent’s speeds in real games.
Learn How To Field
Some of these pitching machines can be adjusted to do ground balls and flyers, allowing players to practice fielding.
Handling the ball needs to be perfected in order to prevent shifting the momentum to the offensive team. The pitching machine can help the players practice their skills in handling the ball to avoid fielding errors.
The Top 6 Pitching Machines Of 2019
To help you get to third base, here are some of the best pitching machines of 2019.
Bear in mind that these are all different and some may be better for different players. Just follow my tips and you’ll find the one that’s best for you.
#1 Louisville Slugger UPM 45-Blue Flame Pitching Machine
My first recommendation comes from the official brand of the Babe Ruth League, the Pony Baseball League, and the Softball League.
The Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame Pitching Machine comes in a striking blue color. It is manually-operated, very portable, and one of the cheapest options on this list.
The UPM 45 throws hard balls at adjustable speeds ranging from 18 mph to 45 mph. Light flight and plastic balls are pitched at speeds up to 60 mph.
This machine also throws slow pitch softballs up to a 12-foot arch. The UPM 45 is one of the best pitching machines for young players.
It can do a variety of pitches including throwing strikes, fly balls, and grounders; allowing players to train for different occasions.
#2 Louisville Slugger UPM 50-Black Flame Pitching Machine
Next to the plate is the Louisville Slugger UPM 50 Black Flame Pitching Machine which comes in a classic blue color.
Like the UPM 45, it also uses a spring-loaded mechanism to launch balls.
Unlike the UPM 45, the UPM 50 is able to pitch hard balls at a faster speed of 50 mph. It can also handle light flight and plastic balls as well as slow pitch softballs.
The UPM 50 is very similar to the UPM 45, but is slightly more expensive with a stronger pitch. It’s a great option for younger and slightly older players looking to power up their swing.
#3 JUGS Small-Ball Pitching Machine
Our first motorized pitching machine comes from JUGS, the JUGS Small-Ball Pitching Machine.
It’s a blue, heavy-duty steel machine with adjustable legs and a long feeder for balls.
It runs on 110vAC, but you can also purchase an optional battery pack for ultimate portability.
As the name suggests, the JUGS Small-Ball pitches small balls, half the size of regulation baseballs. Given their smaller size, they’re great for improving a player’s depth perception and precision.
The small balls also allow this machine to launch balls at faster speeds, up to 75 mph.
The downside of this pitching machine is that it uses non-regulation balls and they’re sold separately.
However, the automatic feeder makes it so the hitter can even practice by themselves. They can hit 25 balls before they have to refill the feeder.
The JUGS Small-Ball is also great because of its versatility. It can handle fastballs, curveballs, fly balls, and even ground balls.
#4 JUGS Lite-Flite Pitching Machine
The JUGS Lite-Flite Pitching Machine is another motorized option from JUGS.
The Lite-Flite runs on ⅛ horsepower and uses a 1.3 amplifier motor keep it powerful and steady, guaranteeing a great practice session with players and coaches.
It’s compatible with the same optional battery pack for the Small-Ball for greater portability.
The Lite-Flite is great for practicing hitting fastballs, curveballs, and sliders, as it reached speeds of up to 85 mph.
The Lite-Flite can also be rotated 360 degrees to practice ground balls, pop-ups, and fly balls.
The Lite-Flite is great because it’s very maneuverable and easy to use.
It uses Switch-and-Play Knobs so you can adjust the machine to either baseball or softball in just a few seconds.
It can only use poly balls (wiffle balls) and lite-flite balls. Its compatibility with lighter and softer balls is great for kids, if they get hit, it definitely won’t hurt as much as regulation baseballs.
#5 Zooka ZS740 Pitching Machine
Whereas the JUGS Small-Ball and Lite-Flite pitching machines come with optional battery packs, the Zooka ZS740 Pitching Machine has an internal battery.
Weighing in at only 30 lbs, it’s lighter than both of the JUGS pitching machines without their batteries. This is by far the most portable motorized pitching machine on this list.
A single charge of the Zooka takes 10 hours, but a single charge can pitch over 500 times. It throws safety balls, dimple balls, real baseballs, and even tennis balls.
The ZS740 is one of the most used pitching machines for practice players as it is perfect for machine-pitch leagues.
Like the Lite-Flite, the Zooka can also be rotated a full 360 degrees. It also has a light and beeper that rings to notify the batter that a ball is about to be released. That way, the player can ready themselves and practice their reaction time skills to prepare for real games.
#6 BSN Bulldog Baseball/Softball Pitching Machine
Our last pitching machine is the BSN Bulldog Baseball/Softball Pitching Machine.
It’s a bright red motorized pitching machine that uses compressed air and a wheel to pitch balls.
The BSN Bulldog can throw baseballs, softballs, dimpled balls, and regulation leather at speeds ranging from 30 mph to 60 mph.
It also has heavy-duty legs that can be easily adjusted to suit either baseball or softball pitches.
The BSN Bulldog is motorized and runs either plugged into 110vAC socket or hooked up to a ¼ horsepower generator.
It’s not as portable as the other options on this list, but it’s a great, heavy-duty, motorized option for practicing with regulation balls.
Which Pitching Machine Should I Choose?
Pitching machines are an important piece of equipment for any serious baseball player, and getting one is a great investment in your kid’s skill and ability.
Although it may seem initially expensive, the results will be worth it.
I hope this guide helped you get a handle on some of the best pitching machines on the market.
No matter who you’re buying it for, with the diligent practice they’ll be hitting home runs in no time at all.