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|How To Choose a Baseball Pitching Machine
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 what we sell is 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:
-Arm Style Machines
-Compressed Air Machines
Generally, 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 $1200.
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 admittedly, our 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 $1500. 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 catchers pop-ups. They are somewhat portable. Our machines range in weight from 60 lbs to 110 lbs. Some of our competitors' older technology machines weigh 150 lbs.
Distinct Disadvantages are that you won't see the motion of the "pitchers 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 our Single & Two Wheel Pitching Machines
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 plus MPH though we even offer 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 two rack-fed models we offer do come equipped with built in wheels & a dolly system.
Click here to see our Arm Style Pitching Machines
"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 though our portable cages are perfectly matched for the lighter balls. We've even got a great poly-ball (hollow wiffleball) machine 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 our inexpensive portable cages, many of which occupy only 30, 40 or 50 ft, perfect for small backyards.
Auto feeders are available too. Some can optionally operate on auto-type batteries. We now even offer a rechargeable "power station" that will allow you to take it to parks where no electrical power is available. They ship UPS so obviously they are very portable too.
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 our "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 where 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 in the 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 of our lightweight machines have auto feeder options that range from $69 to $99.
(You will find these items on the specific pitching machine pages)
Batting Cages - Full sized cages generally are 60 or 70 ft in length, 12 ft in height and 14 ft wide. (yes we can help you with other sizes but these cover 85 % of the market). Count on $1500. to $1900 and please don't buy junk if you do buy elsewhere!
Click here to see our full-size cages.
Our 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. (See the money-saving packages on our pitching machine pages.)
Click here to see our portable cages.
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 our poly-ball or light-flight machines for common sense reasons.
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About the Author
SubmittedCoach John Peter, presently aged 50 something, is 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!