No matter what type of sports you are into, if you want to perfect your game, you have to practice, practice, AND (guess what?) practice.
For this, going in for your regular training sessions may seem enough. But as a coach – let me give you a little insider tip – the truth is – you need to put in extra hours if you want to beat the competitive heat. The good thing is – if you are talking about games like baseball, softball, or even tennis, there is a solution to your situation. Pitching machine! Now, maybe you’re wondering (although it’s a pretty basic question) – what is a pitching machine, and how does a pitching machine work?
What is a Pitching Machine?
A pitching machine is a gadget that pitches the ball. It is designed to mimic the actions of a pitcher. But, to answer the latter half of the question, you may want to go through this article as I shall be discussing how different types of pitching machines work.
What Is a Pitching Machine Used For?
A pitching machine is a training aid for players to improve their batting techniques. It allows them to practice and improve their strokes. The device simulates the various types of pitches a batter might face in the field. You can customize the speed and style according to your preferences.
Plus, you can use a pitching machine to improve fielding as well. Machines that are able to do pop-fly or groundball can help you with both infield and outfield drills. However, you need a partner/coach to direct the machine if you want to get the best results.
There are two types of machines- hand-fed and automatic feed. In hand-fed, you need to manually insert the ball into the machine. And, in the automatic feed, depending on the model, you can stack in a number of balls and the machine will automatically pitch the ball. In this type, the gadget shoots after a regular interval which can be every 5-7 seconds.
How Does a Pitching Machine Work?
There are different types of pitching machines. The homemade version is the most basic of them all. It has two wheels that spin in opposite directions when it is switched on. Each wheel is powered by a motor. When the ball is inserted into the machine, either manually or mechanically, the wheels grab it and shoot it out through the other end.
The pitching machine aims to improve your athletic skills such as your reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and agility. So, to refine your skills, you can change the settings of the machine to throw different types of pitches.
For this, you can adjust the speed of the motors. You can increase the speed of one of the motors. When one of the wheels spin faster than the other, it releases the ball at a different speed and spins towards the batter. With this, it will be able to produce pitches like curveballs, fastballs, sliders, and even screwballs.
How Does the Toss Pitching Machine Work?
The mechanism behind the mystery of how a toss pitching machine works is pretty simple. Let me give you a description of this type of machine and tell you about a few things that you need to know.
First, you can use it to practice different types of balls such as tennis balls, baseballs, or softballs. Next, the unit has an on-and-off setting which makes it easy to use. Lastly, they have three different time settings- 6s, 8s, and 10s. So, you can operate it without any additional help.
The majority of the toss machines have the option to adjust the height which makes it more user-friendly. So, whether it is an adult or a child, anyone can use it.
How it works:
- Load the balls into the slot. Depending on the model and the type of ball, it can be between 10 to 14.
- Adjust the timing and switch it on.
- As the ball rolls down the ramp or slot, it gathers enough momentum, and then, the machine releases it with a consistent flip.
- Install a net to catch the ball.
The purpose behind using a toss pitching machine is that it helps to improve your accuracy and technique. And, you can adjust your motion when you are practicing.
How Does a Manual Pitching Machine Work?
Louisville (a popular brand in the baseball realm) is kind of like the kings of manual pitching machines. So, when I explain the workings of a manual pitching machine, I’ll use the blue flame as an example. However, different manual pitching machines may have varied operational nuances. Be sure to check the manual before you dive in headfirst with a manual machine.
How a Blue Flame Pitching Machine Works?
With the Blue Flame pitching machine, you can run a variation of drills such as catcher’s drill, pop fly, line drives, coach’s pitch, and slow-pitch softball. It is manually operated so you will need the assistance of someone while training.
- Adjust the machine, according to the desired pitch and ball type, by placing the power spring in the right speed hole. It is located on the power level.
- Then, cock back the throwing arm of the machine.
- Place the ball on the Throwing Arm.
- With one hand hold the Release Lever, step your foot completely down on the power lever until it touches the bottom.
- Finally, pull the Release Lever back with your hand. This will release the ball towards the batter.
- The quicker you step on the bottom frame, the more momentum the ball has.
- When you are setting the ball in the throwing arm, make sure that the path is clear. Anyone standing in the path of the trajectory will face the brunt of getting hit by the ball.
How Does an Arm Pitching Machine Work?
Unlike other types of pitching machines, the arm pitching machine offers more versatility. Some of the models have 2 wheels while others have 3. The ones with more wheels can produce a variety of pitches such as sliders, curves, and forkballs. Depending on the model, it can hold about 400 softballs or 600 baseballs. When the machine is switched on, the steel arm rotates before hurling the ball at the batter. Thus, simulating the motion of an actual pitcher.
How Does a Baseline Pitching Machine Work?
The baseline pitching machine has two operating units- the on-and-off switch and a speed dial. The range of the speed dial is between 10 to 70 mph. This machine has the ability to tilt and swivel the ball for pop flies.
A loading tube is located at the upper end and a kick plate is located right behind it. Once you switch on the gadget, insert the ball through the tube, the pitching machine tire and the kick plate grab the ball from behind and shoot it out through the front. Depending on the speed of the tire the angle of the ball will vary.
You can also feed the machine different types of balls. All you have to do is adjust the knob on the arm of the gadget according to its size. You can also adjust the profile of the pitch by flipping the legs of the machine.
How To Set the Distance Between the Tire and the Ball Chute on a Pitching Machine?
Usually, there are locking knobs below the tire and the ball feed chute that you can loosen and adjust the height according to your need.
What Are the Components of The Pitching Machine?
Pitching machines come in a number of shapes and sizes. The arm action machine and the circular wheel machine are the most common ones. However, the most basic version of a pitching machine has:
- Semi-hard rubber 12″ tires (non-inflatable) – 2
- ¼ HP motor – 2
Where Is the Serial # On the Pitching Machine?
If you are looking for the serial number of the machine, there is a silver tag that is usually attached to the frame.
What Kind of Wheel Is on A Pitching Machine?
For homemade circular wheel machines, you can use something as simple as a bike tire. Commercially, they are made out of urethane material with abrasion resistance and inner construction.
My Preferred Pitching Machines
Over the years, I have tried and trained with a number of pitching machines. Among them, some of them hit the mark but at the same time, there are those that are nothing but a complete disappointment. That’s why I would like to mention, what I believe, are the top pitching machines that are worth a shot.
Jugs MVP Combo Pitching Machine
Whether you are coaching a league of baseball or softball players, you should know that the Jugs MVP Combo Pitching Machine is compatible for both. It has a separate baseball chute and a 12inch chute for softball. By using them, you can easily train your players by using this gadget.
Now, coming to the specifics, unlike its predecessors, this model has a higher speed range up to 60 mph. To adjust the speed settings, the device has a knob dial located near the launch tube along with a digital readout display. The range for the speed setting starts from 20 mph and goes up to 60 mph. So, you can calibrate the speed according to the needs of each player.
Next, comes the question of,’ how accurate is the Jugs MVP Combo?’. Not to worry. The device throws with great accuracy and launches the ball from a realistic release point. You can also make it more challenging by making adjustments to the height.
The product comes with two sets of legs- straight long legs and curved short legs. You can use sting-free baseballs, lite-flite baseballs, dimpled and seam softballs, SOFTIE baseballs and softballs, LeatherLast softballs, JUGS Pearl, and JUGS BULLDOG poly balls, and even tennis balls.
Moving on to the machine, it weighs about 56 lbs. Lugging around a gadget this heavy everywhere is not something anyone would want to do during every session. So, to make things simpler, you can dismantle the legs and the chute of the machine. With this, you can load it in the trunk of your car and set it up at any location of your choice. While setting up, you can tighten the legs by twisting the key at the bottom.
It is a single-wheel machine with a non-marking pneumatic tire which makes it ideal for young athletes to develop their skills, especially while running offensive or defensive drills. After having all such great things about the device, you should know that it does not rotate 360 degrees.
Louisville Slugger Blue Flame Pitching Machine
The Louisville Slugger Blue Flame pitching machine, according to many, is considered to be the top little league pitching machine. In fact, leagues such as Pony Baseball and Softball and Babe Ruth League have made it their official pitching machine. I have already mentioned how it works earlier in the article. The Blue Flame is a manual pitching machine. So, you will have to put in a little muscle behind it rather than just stand and press the button.
However, it does have its advantages. For one, it doesn’t require any electricity or batteries. Two, the pitching machine can be disassembled in three parts- the lever, bottom, and the middle frame, with the help of a screwdriver. Because of this feature, it is easy to carry around. Also, it is light in weight. it doesn’t weigh more than 25 lbs.
With this gadget, you can use any type of balls, such as hard balls, dimple balls, fastpitch, and slow-pitch softballs, light flight balls, volleyballs, soccer balls, and even plastic balls. The speed range is quite moderate. It is between 18 to 45 mph. But if you are using light flight balls then the speed can go higher. For example, plastic balls can reach up to 60mph. And, for slow pitch softballs, it can throw with an upward arch of about 12 inches!
Since the machine is lightweight, to keep it stable, there are spikes at the bottom. All you have to do is before you begin the training session, step down on the bottom frame so that it digs into the ground. This way, needn’t worry about the trajectory of the pitch going off course.
It launches the pitch at a level so you can train in perfecting the swing mechanics. Also, the precision of this device is extremely accurate for throwing strikes, grounders, and fly balls.
On the Release lever, you will find marking indicating the different types of pitch. With the help of a knob, you can adjust the setting according to your preference. And to launch the ball, you step on the power pedal at the bottom.
Last Word of Advice
Now that you finally know what a pitching machine is and how it works. you have a bunch of options to choose from. So, to make things easier for you, I would suggest, go for the one that is ideal for you.
If you are training a little league of your own, then go for the arm pitching machine. If you want a machine that gives you a good speed range and precision, try out the Jugs MVP Combo Pitching Machine. Or, something that is cheaper, lightweight but has good accuracy, then you can go for the Louisville Slugger Blue Flame Pitching Machine.
All in all, you need to think about the cost of a pitching machine and the results you want from it. I hope this article was helpful to you. Cheers!