Baseball is a wonderful sport that takes a lot of dedication, patience, and skill to master. So, if you want your kid to have a career in baseball, make sure you get them into it from an early age.
And to give him/her a head-start, investing in a top-notch little league pitching machine can exactly be the boost your kid needs.
However, I have seen many young players get jitters when standing in front of a pitching machine. Thoughts like how fast the ball will come or what if it hits me are pretty common to come into their minds.
Needless to say, if you want them to be a good hitter, you need to help them overcome those fears.
I have been training kids to play against both pitching machines and live pitchers for ages to know all the difficulties that they may face on the field and off.
In my experience, once they learn to deal with the fears, they can really let go and become the best version of themselves, not only in baseball but also in real life.
That is what brings me here today. From here on out – I will help you understand how you can help your kid become a better hitter by teaching them to hit pitches off a pitching machine.
How to Get Your Kid Ready for a Pitching Machine?
Before setting up the pitching machine, you need to spend some one-on-one time with your kid and help him/her understand the fundamentals. Plus, you need a kid’s baseball pitching machine to make sure you get the most out of the training sessions. Here are a couple of tips that I can give you about getting your kids in the right mindset before putting them up against a pitching machine.
1. Get him in the right mindset
Before you do any posture, swing mechanics, or any other technical stuff, you need to start with a pep talk.
You need to get them in the proper mindset of a player and help them overcome their fears of being hit by the ball. It is just a game. And there will be failures and losses. Unless he/she learns to take his losses as a stepping stone to become a better player, he/she will not be able to feel easy with the game.
If the kid is a complete beginner, or even if he is decent at hitting, it is unreal for you or him to expect to hit every single pitch. And if he does miss a couple of hits in a row, you need to calm him down and get back to the basics to figure out what is missing.
If you can develop the mindset of a champion in your kids, they will be able to train harder and more effectively. They will also be more open to challenges and actively try to overcome anything that you throw at them. Hitting off a pitching machine will never be intimidating to the kid once they get into the right mindset.
2. Go over the basics
If your kid has no idea about swing mechanics, you should start with the basics of hitting. Unless you have a coach who can do it for you, it is your job to give him/her a crash course on the fundamentals of hitting a baseball. This includes finding the right hitting stance, visualizing the ball, and working on the power of his strike.
You can use a high-quality batting tee to develop the skills I just mentioned.
Teaching kids the basics are not that challenging for people who have played baseball casually or professionally in the past. However, if you have little experience with the game yourself, I would recommend hiring a coach to give him/her proper batting instructions.
I’ve got a couple of hitting drills for 12-year-olds you can look up and see if it fits the bill.
Learning the basics of hitting will help your youngsters be more confident when he takes the pitch from a pitching machine. Then, once they know that his stance is perfect and that they will be able to strike the ball with power and accuracy, they’ll be ready to take on a pitching machine you have set up for them.
3. Choose the right pitching machine
Choosing the ideal pitching machine is also important when it comes to making sure your kid is ready to face it. Sure, there are many fantastic choices out there, and you will find a lot of good pitching machines, but not all of them are very kid-friendly.
For instance, the Hack Attack pitching machine, which is a multi-thousand dollar unit that comes with a lot of high-end features and has exceptional speed and accuracy, might be a bit too overwhelming for a beginner to handle. Something like the Louisville Slugger Black Flame might be better for someone who’s starting out.
So, make sure you are using a machine that complements the skill and ability of the player that will be using it. Giving your kid a machine that he cannot handle is a waste of money and effort. That money would be better spent on getting training gears like a batting cage or a new set of baseball bats.
Setting up the Pitching Machine
Once you free your kids from the initial jitters and he is ready to take the pitch, you need to set up your pitching machine properly to help them train the most efficient way.
I have an entire article dedicated to setting up a pitching machine.
But if you are short on time and want a few quick ideas on setting up your pitching machine, then the following section is for you.
Set Up the Distance Properly
The first thing you want to do when setting up the pitching machine is – place it at a comfortable distance from the home plate. Setting it at the perfect distance will help the kid react to the ball as it leaves the pitching machine and hits it with good power and accuracy.
If you set it up too close, it would be harder for the player to hit as the relative speed is greater when it is closer. The perfect pitching machine placement is important as it gives the player more time to respond to the ball as it is traveling towards the home plate.
Play with the Speed Control
Every pitching machine you buy should give you a range of speed to work with. You want to play around with the speed controls so that you can change up the pitch speed and help your kid get used to different types of balls. It can be a gamechanger if you’re training 13-year-olds because they are more mature with better reflexes than 7- or 8-year-olds.
However, it is essential not to get carried away with this option.
You do not want to start with fast pitches right off the bat. It would naturally be harder for the player to strike those balls if they are relatively new to the game. Instead, start with a speed that is comfortable for the player and increase the speed only when he is ready to take on a bigger challenge.
Feed when Ready
When you are training a beginner, a kid with no experience in hitting off a pitching machine, you want to avoid using an automatic ball feeder. The ideal situation would be you feeding the ball one at a time only when the kid is ready to strike the ball.
Remember, you need to eliminate all the variables that can cause him/her to miss the shot to build up his confidence. Also, make sure you communicate with your champs from time to time and help rectify any swing mistakes or technical flaws that you may notice while they are trying to hit the ball.
What is the Proper Speed of Pitching Machine for 7 to 8-Year-Olds?
At the age of 7 to 8 years, kids tend to have decent reflexes. And if you get them through activities that train their reflexes to be sharper, they’ll be able to hit baseballs off a pitching machine pretty comfortably. However, if the pitching machine is set too fast, there is a risk that it might hit them, which can lead to severe injuries.
When I am working with 7- to 8-year-olds, I usually set the pitching machine up to throw relatively slower balls that are easy to track and hit for a young player. At best, I would set the pitching machine to throw the balls at a speed of 38 miles per hour. As they get older, I can increase the speed to sharpen their skills.
With All Said and Done
Though many might claim that a pitching machine is bad for hitters, I believe that it can be a fantastic tool to get young hitters a grip on the basics. It helps build up the rhythm and reflexes of a hitter and focuses on some of the fundamentals that can greatly benefit your kid in learning baseball.
A lot of kids can have a hard time hitting off a pitching machine. But if you apply all the tips that I gave you, you should be able to get him/her comfortable soon enough. As long as you are patient and helpful, your kid should have no trouble overcoming his fears of hitting off a pitching machine. Cheers!