Louisville Slugger Black Flame Pitching Machine Review

Buying a new pitching machine is by no means a small investment. If you are going with an automatic model with two or three wheels, it will easily set you back a couple of thousand dollars. And even a throwing arm-style pitching machine can be expensive depending on the model you are after.

Amidst all of these pitching machines that cost upwards of a thousand dollars, going with an automatic machine does not seem like a wise idea.

But if you do not mind manual pitching machines, there is one that I always recommend, The Louisville Slugger Black Flame UPM 50. If you have never heard of this machine before, well, you are in for a treat.

In this Louisville Slugger Black Flame pitching machine review, I will put this pitching machine under a looking glass and highlight some of its key features and give you my hands-on experience with it. By the end of the article, you will have all the information you need to decide whether this is a valid investment for you and your team.

First Impressions

On paper, the Louisville Slugger Black Flame does not look all that exciting. It has a minimum velocity of 18 miles per hour and the maximum pitching speed it can do is about 50 miles per hour. At that range, it is mostly suitable for little leaguers and those who are taking their first steps into the world of baseball.

However, the way I use it, I find it a lot more worth than what I spend on it. Its speed and accuracy are reliable and though the power seems lacking, it is still faster than other sub-300 dollar pitching machines out there.

It is also quite portable despite giving you a sturdy frame. Yes, it is a manual machine, and yes, you need an operator whenever you want to use it, but considering the performance it gives for its price, I would pick it up in a heartbeat.

Louisville Slugger Black Flame Pitching Machine Review (Main Features)

some of the key features of the Black Flame pitching machine by Louisville Slugger:

1. Pitching Speed

The pitching speed that the Black Flame offers is not exceptional, but it is still pretty decent considering the price. I mostly use it to train youngsters and to me, it is the top-rated little league pitching machine out there. Its speed range is perfect to hone the hitting and fielding techniques of young athletes.

The velocity range of this machine is from 18 miles per hour to 50 which is just a tad bit better than the Louisville Slugger Blue Flame UPM 45. So, you will be able to train your batters both in hitting slow balls and fastballs. But you will not be able to get any curveballs with it.

If you are using plastic or light baseballs, it can pitch faster and can even hit around 60 to 70 miles per hour of speed. I mostly use light balls when I am trying to improve my players’ reflexes or improve their target tracking and depth perception.

2. Pitching Accuracy

Though the pitching speed is great and all with the Black Flame, the thing I love most about it is its pitching accuracy. Sure, it will not hit the exact same spot every time, but it stays within the strike zone to a reasonable degree. And the fact that the ball moves around a bit each pitch simulates the feel of playing against a real pitcher.

Setting up the pitch target is also quite easy using the digital readout device. You can switch between a couple of different pitching trajectories. However, it mostly shines when you set it up to do ground balls, fly balls, or line drives.

Because of its flexible trajectories, you will be able to train not only your hitters but also fielders. But since you will be manually feeding one ball at a time, training your entire fielding team with it might not be the best idea.

The only gripe I have with it is that it is a bit lighter than other pitching machines out there. This means, if you have not secured it properly, it will move slightly after each pitch causing it to go off target after a while. To counteract this, I always pile a few sandbags around its legs to keep it in place along with the included ground stakes.

3. Frame Quality

At first glance, I would forgive you if you thought that this machine would break down on you after a couple of months. Heck, even I did not have much faith in its build quality when I first looked at it. But after a couple of years of rough use, I have yet to find any dent or signs of damage on my machine.

The lightweight frame of the Black Flame does not properly convey how strongly it is made. Even if you use it extensively to train your players, you should get years of use out of it.

The only issue here is the spring which is responsible for the pitching speed. But even if the spring gets damaged, you can easily replace it at a very low cost. So I would not worry too much about that.

4. Portability

Portability is one of its strongest features and one that I love about it the most. The entire machine weighs only around 24 pounds. So if you have no one to help you out, you can just carry it out to the field yourself.

I would not recommend solo carrying it though as it has a lot of small parts and carrying it alone is plain awkward. However, because of its lightweight frame, I never had any issue with letting my youth players carry it out with me to the field after I disassembled it.

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5. Price

The Louisville Slugger Black Flame is the absolute high-end pitching machine out there when it comes to value for money. It has a good overall performance with little to no major issues at a great price. You should be able to pick one up for yourself for under 400 dollars, which frankly, is an absolute bargain.

The Blue Flame is priced a little lower, and if your budget is extremely tight, that too can be a great choice. However, the noticeable bump in performance you would get for spending a bit extra on the Black Flame is entirely worth it.

How to Adjust the Speed on the Louisville Slugger Black Flame Pitching Machine

Adjusting the speed of the Black Flame is easy, but can be a bit annoying especially for new users. Since it is a fully manual device, you will need to adjust the speed on your own using a spring. Without any console or control panel to work with, speed adjustment does feel a bit finicky at first.

But once you get used to it, it really does not take too long, or too much hassle. The speed is mostly controlled by the spring that is attached to the power pedal and the throwing arm. You will find several small holes, one that pedals where you can attach the springs.

The location of the spring on the power pedal dictates the overall speed of the pitch. You should also get a speed chart on your instruction manual that you got with your purchase. The speed chart will let you know the speed that you will get with the different slots. So, consult the chart to figure out where you want to attach the spring.

Another small element that somewhat affects the speed of the machine is the type of ball you use with it. The Black Flame is a versatile machine that can handle a variety of baseballs and softballs including regulation balls. If you are going with lighter or smaller balls, you will be able to achieve a much higher velocity.

You can also adjust the pitching height by adjusting the release block on the throwing arm. If you want even more height adjustment options, you can get the optional throwing arm attachment for the Black Flame. But it does cost a fair bit, and honestly, you do not need it all that much.

Does the Louisville Slugger Make the Cut?

The Louisville Slugger Black Flame is one of my personal favorites when it comes to pitching machines for little leaguers. It offers a fantastic value for the money and I use it extensively in different hitting and fielding drills. After each pitch, I also get some chance to talk and give pointers to my players.

Sure, if you are comparing it to an automatic pitching machine, it will not be breaking any records. But as a manual machine that is driven without any power source other than an operator, its performance is hard to beat. If mine ever broke, I would buy another one in a heartbeat. Cheers!

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