Whether they're Little League or Major League players, baseball players know that good batting technique is essential to hitting. One of the key elements to developing good hitting mechanics is consistent pitching. Even a Cy Young pitcher can't throw the same pitch at the same speed every time, though. Therefore, pitching machines are the best way to correcting batting problems and encouraging good technique.
Different pitching machines use different types of balls. For example, some use only baseballs or softballs, while others accept both. Certain pitching machines even use specialized balls or wiffle balls. Little League and Youth League players will need pitching machines that use Reduced Injury Factor, or RIF balls. If the players use aluminum bats, which are susceptible to denting, machines that accept sting-free or dimpled balls are a good idea.
Different types of machines will pitch at different speeds or rates. Select the best machine for the batter based on skill and pitch speed. For instance, beginner tossing machines will pitch balls regularly. The minimum pitch speed can be set as low as ten miles per hour. These machines are very portable and compact, so children can practice their batting almost anywhere.
Youth League players will want a single-motor machine that uses RIF balls and features maximum pitch speeds of at least 60 miles per hour. Some are manufactured with wheels for portability, while others are designed for transport in a moving cart.
Softball pitching machines are designed to simulate both fast and slow-pitch softball throws. Choose a machine specifically designed for softballs, or purchase one that manages both baseballs and softballs.
High school, college, and professional batters are looking for pitching machines that feature a variety of pitches, including curve balls, sliders, and fast balls. A dual-motor machine with a pitch speed of at least 90 miles per hour is a must. Many are manufactured with wheels for portability.
Some machines can be used with vertical pivots, allowing the machine to offer fly balls, ground balls, and pop-ups as well. Choose a model with a 360 rotating head and the machine will toss to various parts of the park without having to be moved.
As a general rule, stationary pitching machines are larger and hold more balls than portable machines. Instead of constantly refilling the ball carriage, select a feeder-compatible pitching machine with an extra feeder. A smaller feeder typically contains 20 baseballs, while a larger feeder may contain as many as 80.
Players who plan to practice by themselves a lot often choose a machine that contains an in-line switch. This allows them to turn the machine off and on with a remote control switch placed by their feet in the batting cage.
The most common models of pitching machines rest atop a steel frame that has been mounted on top of a tripod. Typically, the machine is moved or rotated on either one or two wheels so that a ball can be directed toward the batting area.
Usually, models with one wheel are less expensive and pitch from 25 to 75 miles per hour. Some single-wheel pitching machines are also able to pitch a curve ball or can be directed to simulate either left- or right-handed pitching. The average weight of these machines is from 30 to 60 pounds. These machines are sufficient for average batters.
Dual wheel machines feature pitch speeds with a minimum speed of 25 miles per hour and a maximum speed of more than 90 miles per hour. They are able to simulate nearly any kind of pitch, and usually contain a rotating head that permits a ball to be tossed from many different angles. The average weight of these machines is between 60 and 150 pounds. These machines are best for serious batters intent on improving their batting average.
Pitching machines are powered by either one or two motors, and use 110-volt alternating current. The horsepower of the motor is the determining factor in the machine's maximum pitching speed. The pitch speed can be controlled by an adjustment knob.
Larger machines are moved rarely and can be connected directly to a power source. Portable models that can include transport carts or wheels usually have a battery pack or can be connected to a 1000-watt generator.
The cost of a new pitching machine can range from three hundred dollars to three thousand dollars. Lightweight, portable models that have the same features as bulkier, less mobile models usually cost more. Additionally, expect the price to increase as the number of features and options increases.