Whether you want to work on your own skills or if you coach a team that’s looking to get a little more out of practices, a pitching machine might be just what you need to take your game to the next level. Pitching machines are surprisingly versatile. There is a wide range of features available and an even wider price range. There are pitching machines out there for parents who just want to help their kids through a slump and coaches who want to help an entire team hit fastballs a little better and never miss a pop up fly again.
Because there is such a wide range available, it can be difficult to figure out which pitching machine is a good fit for you and your needs. Before you decide, it’s best to take a look at all the different features that are available so you can narrow down the things you don’t need and what you must have.
Top Pitching Machines Comparison Chart
Practicing hitting is really important for obvious reasons, but there are some effects that a lot of practice has on your game that you might not realize. It’s not just as simple as learning how to swing the bat. Your body develops the appropriate muscle memory, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination that will improve your batting and fielding. A pitching machine is a perfect way to get this kind of repetitive practice. Here are some things to know that will help you choose the right pitching machine.
Budget and Need
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the price range for pitching machines is enormous. Some can easily cost ten times more than others. There are many surprisingly affordable options and there are some that can be considered a pretty big investment.
Basically, you need to determine what you’ll be using your pitching machine for and then figure out how much you’re willing to spend. If you’re thinking about buying one to take to the park on the weekends to practice hitting, you can probably get by with something a little more basic. On the other hand, if you coach a youth, high school, or college team and want something that can handle heavy use season after season, it makes sense that you’d spend a lot more for something that’s really high quality.
Chances are pretty good that you’re going to want to be able to move your pitching machine around regularly. It’s important to make sure you choose a machine that is easier to carry, store, and move around. Here are some of the things to look at concerning portability:
If you’re planning to lift your pitching machine into the trunk of a car often, you don’t want to buy a pitching machine that’s too heavy for you to lift. Make sure the weight is appropriate for who will be doing the lifting. For example, if you’re going to be using the machine for small children or a little league team, it’s likely you’ll be one of few adults around and might need to lift it alone. If you’re using it for adult players, there will be plenty of people around to help.
Some pitching machines come with transport wheels to make it easy to pull around from the car to the field. These wheels sometimes need to be removed during use because they might affect the precision of the pitch.
If you find a pitching machine that is lightweight and somewhat collapsable, it might come complete with a carrying bag, which is an ideal way to transport and store it in the offseason.
Armed vs Wheeled
Armed or wheeled refers to how the ball is released. Armed machines are usually used in professional batting cages. They tend to be pretty large and consist of a mechanical arm that rotates at various speeds and angles to throw the ball.
Wheeled pitching machines are more common outside of professional leagues. They’re smaller, easy to store, and much more affordable. Most of the best pitching machines for 2017 in the following reviews are wheeled.
Manual vs Battery Powered
Battery powered pitching machines are convenient because the can usually hold a fair amount of balls and can continuously throw them one after another. This is really the only way you can use a pitching machine by yourself. Of course, there are downsides as there are with any battery operated piece of equipment. Battery life may vary and you’ll always need to make sure you have the main battery and a backup charged.
Manual pitching machines don’t have a power source. The ball is usually propelled by a spring-loaded arm that is released with a pedal or button. This is a really great choice if you’re planning to use it for a team. Usually, you’ll need to reload a new ball after every pitch. This can get tedious but it also allows you to change the settings and throw something different each time, which makes it great for batting practice. The one major drawback of manual machines is that there’s no way to use them by yourself.
Variety: Pitches and Balls
Pitching machines come with a surprising amount of variety. For example, you can pick from various pitches, angles, and speeds when using it to practice hitting. Some are also designed so that you can use them to practice fielding. They can be set up to throw out high pop flies or hard, fast ground balls. Most pitching machines can throw a baseball, softball, tennis ball, or dimpled practice ball. Make sure you check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Some might recommend using only practice balls as they’re less durable and won’t leave a residue on the machine’s working parts.
If you’re looking for a machine that can throw fastballs, it’s important to keep in mind the age of the people who will be using the machine. If you’re buying it for younger children, don’t get one that can throw faster than around 60 mph. This can help reduce the chance of injury. You should also consider a pitching machine that can throw a little slower – even 10 – 15 mph – so that younger kids can learn fundamentals before moving up to faster pitches.
You can even find some that are capable of throwing much larger balls, like a volleyball or soccer ball. This makes them completely versatile and something that you can use during nearly every sports season. This is something else to keep in mind if we go back to thinking about a budget. If you’re involved in school or community sports, it might make sense to invest in a more expensive machine if you can use it year round for various sports.
Baseball Pitching Machine Reviews
Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame Pitching Machine
The Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame Pitching Machine is one of the most popular among youth players. It can throw a variety of balls – baseballs, softballs, even volleyballs and soccer balls – which makes it a very versatile machine. It has a variable speed setting that ranges from 18 mph to 43 mph with a regulation baseball and up to 60 mph with a softball.
This machine is pretty consistent and will end up about where you aim it. There are some slight inconsistencies, but this is normal as it’s hard to control every factor that determines where the pitch will land. It’s lightweight and portable weighing only 25 pounds. It’s a perfect size to fit in the trunk of a car and can easily be taken from home to ball practice.
This pitching machine is manually operated so you don’t need to worry about electric cords or providing any kind of power when you want to use it. Since you’re most likely going to be using it on the baseball field, this is a great feature. It’s spring powered and should last for about 20,000 pitches, which is a lot of Little League seasons. When the spring wears out, you can easily get a replacement so you don’t have to purchase another whole pitching machine. It’s really easy to use and comes with a speed chart so you can adjust the arm to get the mph that you want. To release the ball, just step on the lever.
This is a versatile, easy to use, affordable machine that can help you or your team work on hitting difficult pitches and improving your season.
- Versatile, can throw any kind of ball
- Easy to use
- Manually operated
- Pitches can be a little inconsistent with speed and where they land in the strike zone
Sports Attack Junior Hack Attack Baseball Pitching Machine
The Junior Hack Attack Baseball Pitching Machine from sports attack is a great pitching machine for any leagues, from youth all the way up to professional players. It has a unique three-wheel design that allows players to not only work on their pitching but also to learn the process of accelerating and releasing the ball, just like with a real pitcher.
This pitching machine can throw curves, sliders, risers, knuckleballs, and fastballs up to 70 mph. It has pivoting heads so you can aim the ball just about anywhere – ground balls, line drives, or pop flies up to 250 feet. It’s also really easy and seamless to makes adjustments between pitches.
Moving the Junior Hack Attack on and off the field is easy – just tilt, un-socket the legs, and roll it on the transporting wheels. It weighs roughly 75 pounds but is fairly compact and can fit in the trunk of most cars. You can use softer practice balls with this machine, but synthetic rubber balls should be avoided as they will leave residue on the wheel and eventually start to affect accuracy.
This is an accurate and durable machine that’s portable and comes with a five-year warranty. There’s not a lot to complain about with this one, but the one big downside is that it is exceptionally expensive. It’s a great investment for long-term use for a team or organization, but if you want something for casual, personal use, you might not be willing to make the financial investment. Another downside? You either need to plug this into an outlet or use a generator to get it to work.
- Throws a wide range of pitches
- Easy to make adjustments
- Easy to transport
- Needs to be plugged into 110v outlet or generator to work
JUGS Lite-Flite Machine for Baseball and Softball
The Jugs Lite-Flite works with baseballs or softballs, has a wide range of movement, and can be easily adjusted to throw sliders, curveballs, and fastballs. Its simple design is easy to operate and it swivels a full 360 degrees which makes it perfect for simulating pop flies and hard ground balls. This makes this pitching machine a great choice to practice both hitting and fielding.
One great feature is it can be adapted to throw both left and right-handed pitchers. Left-handed pitchers throw the ball completely different than right-handed pitchers. This machine will really help you or your ballplayer prepare for anything.
With Jugs Lite-Flite Pitching Machine, the ball is always in view which lets the hitter work on timing and ball position as well as swinging. There’s a quick change mechanism so it’s quick and easy to change the settings from baseball to softball. In addition to being so versatile, this pitching machine is exceptionally portable. It weighs only 35 pounds and, when you’re done using it, it fits into two carrying bags so you can easily take it from home to the field.
This machine runs on batteries and Jugs sells a rechargeable battery pack that it’s compatible with. The batteries provide enough power to get speedballs up to 50 mph. This is a great, versatile machine for the price, but keep in mind you will probably need to purchase the additional battery pack to get the most out of this Jugs pitching machine.
- Good for batting and fielding practice
- Need to purchase additional battery pack
Louisville Slugger Black Flame Pitching Machine
The Louisville Slugger Black Flame Pitching Machine is extremely versatile and one of the best options for multisport training. It is of course ideal for baseball and softball, but can also be used for tennis, cricket, soccer, and volleyball. It’s reliable and accurate and can throw ground balls, fly balls, and pitches from 18 to 60 mph. It can also throw softball slow pitch with a 10 to 12-foot arch.
This is another pitching machine that’s manually operated so no need to worry about a battery pack. It’s lightweight at around 25 pounds, portable, and easily adjustable. Any player at any age and any skill level will gain a lot from using this machine.
One downside to this manual pitching machine is that you have to reload the ball after every pitch. While this does allow you to change the speed and direction of the ball every time, it can be a little tedious. Since there is no battery, it uses a spring which is meant to last for 20,000 pitches. Add to that the durable steel and aluminum frame and this machine should last a good while.
One thing to know is that this machine needs to be secured to the ground in some way or else it will jerk slightly with each pitch which will affect accuracy. If you’re using it on the grass, stakes are probably your best bet. On a tennis court, gravel, or asphalt, using weights or sandbags should do the trick.
- No power source needed
- Will need to be secured to the ground
- Reloading after every pitch can get tedious
JUGS Small-Ball Pitching Machine
If you’re looking for something a little different that can help you focus more on the ball, give the Jugs Small Ball Pitching Machine a try. What’s so special about this pitching machine? It uses special balls that are about half the size of a standard baseball. This can help players really sharpen their eyes and concentration.
A standard baseball has a circumference that’s about nine inches or so; the balls for this machine are five inches. Players will learn to track the ball better as it’s harder to keep an eye on the smaller ball. It also helps improve depth perception and focus. It’s made of strong steel and has adjustable legs so you can change the height or the pitch to simulate pitch delivery. The balls are smaller and lighter, so fastballs from this machine can reach up to 75 mph.
The manufacturer says that this machine can be used indoors and it has a 110-volt AC power adapter that makes this pretty easy to do. Keep in mind that this machine can pitch up to 75 mph, so indoor play might not be the best idea unless you have access to a large gymnasium. To play outside, you’ll need a battery pack which is sold separately. The Jugs Small Ball Pitching Machine only weighs 23 pounds, so if you add the battery pack, it will be exceptionally portable.
One more thing to keep in mind with this machine is that it requires special balls that are sized to fit the machine. Jugs sells them in large quantities, but they can be quite expensive.
- Small balls can help sharpen accuracy and concentration
- Lightweight and portable
- Comes with power adapter
- Requires special balls
- Battery pack sold separately
Sports Attack Hack Attack Baseball Pitching Machine
The Hack Attack Pitching Machine can be adjusted to simulate a right or left handed pitcher and is capable of throwing fastballs, curveballs, sliders, split fingers, and breaking pitches. This is a machine that is suitable for seasoned players. It can throw a fastball up to 100 mph. If you want to work on playing the field, it’s also capable of throwing balls into any direction so you can easily simulate fly balls, pop ups, ground balls, and line drives.
The three-wheel design helps improve ball visibility so you can focus more on angles, speed, location, and timing than with other pitching machines. You have a lot of control over the ball with this machine. You can adjust the pitch from left to right and up and down. It’s compatible with regulation baseballs, softballs, Wiffle balls, and practice balls.
Another great thing about this machine? There’s no assembly required. Just open the box and it’s ready to go. A downside? You will need access to an electrical outlet or a generator to use this machine. It’s really powerful and isn’t suitable for battery power.
This is a great pitching machine for a school or a league. One downside? The price. This is easily the most expensive pitching machine that we reviewed and is probably too much of an investment for personal use. This is a machine best suited for a group that will use it heavily over a long period of time.
- Throws 100 mph fastballs
- Very adjustable
- Need generator or outlet access for power
- Very expensive
Zooka ZS740 Pitching Machine
The Zooka ZS740 is a unique machine. It’s completely portable and, unlike any other machine that we’ve reviewed, it has an internal fully rechargeable battery and a digital control panel for height and speed adjustments. It looks streamlined and modern and is really convenient to use. The speed is controlled by simple up and down arrows and a digital readout shows you how fast the ball is traveling.
The Zooka ZS740 is consistent and great for not only pitching but for fielding, too. It designed for kids and teens but can be used by anyone who needs to keep on top of his or her skills. Maximum speed for a fastball is 65 mph, which is a great for this age group. It’s fast, but not so fast that it can cause an injury. It can also go as slow as 10 mph, which is ideal for first-time players.
The battery will last up to 500 pitches before needing to be recharged so it can easily last for a whole day practicing at the ballpark batting, catching flyers, or working on drills with ground balls. There’s also an auto feeder if you want to practice by yourself. It has no spinning wheels and no external moving parts. It’s powered by air compression that propels a cup inside the machine to release the ball. You can preset it to a different pitch with every ball and even have randomized, computer controlled series of pitches.
This is a really awesome machine, but there are some downsides. Although it’s not as expensive as some, it’s definitely still a pretty big investment. But you should keep in mind that you don’t need to buy any additional battery packs. Some of the pitches aren’t exact; for example, it doesn’t throw real life fastballs because the ball has no backspin. As the battery weakens, the pitches get more and more unreliable. Some maintenance has to be done during the offseason, too, as you have to recharge the battery occasionally to keep it working properly.
- Computerized and digital
- Internal rechargeable battery
- Reliability declines as battery runs down
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
For an affordable, versatile, and reliable pitching machine, try the Louisville Slugger Blue Flame. It can throw a variety of balls, including volleyballs and soccer balls. You can use this pitching machine throughout the year. It’s lightweight, portable, and manually operated so you won’t have to worry about keeping a battery charged.
The Sports Attack Junior hack Attack pitching machine has a unique three-wheel design to help player visualize the ball a little better. It throws a variety of pitches and is easy to transport and program. You can point the head to aim the ball just about anywhere, making it good for batting practice and playing the field. This is a pretty big investment but is a great choice for leagues or organizations.
The Jugs Lite-Flite Machine is easily adjustable and can simulate both right and left-handed pitches. It also swivels a full 360 degrees and can throw perfect pop-ups and ground balls for practicing fielding techniques. It’s lightweight and so portable that it can be put into two carrying bags.
The Louisville Slugger Black Flame is ideal for multisport training. It works not only with baseballs and softballs, but also with tennis, cricket, soccer, and volleyballs. It can also be used for fielding practice and can throw a slow pitch softball with a 10 to 12-foot arch. It’s manually operated so no need to worry about a battery. For increased reliability, make sure to secure this one to the ground.
For something a little different, try the Jugs Small Ball Pitching Machine. It uses special small balls that are about half the size or regular baseballs to help batters work on accuracy, sharpen their vision and concentration, and help with focus. If you can hit a small ball reliably, a normal one should be no problem.
The Hack Attack Baseball Pitching Machine it great for experienced players. It can throw fastballs up to 100 mph along with a variety of different pitches. You get a lot of control over the ball with this machine. It’s also no assembly required – ready to go right out of the box. If you’re looking for something to use for a league or organization year after year, this one is worth the investment.
And finally, the unique Zooka ZS740 Pitching Machine. This is the only digital pitching machine on our list. One major perk to this one is the internal rechargeable battery. No extra battery pack required. There’s an easy to read and control digital screen for speed adjustments and no external wheels – it’s powered by an internal air compressor. You can even program it to have a randomized, computer-generated series of pitches for serious batting practice.
A pitching machine isn’t something you buy very often, so it’s possible that you’re a little overwhelmed. There are so many choices and they vary so much in price, you might not know how to start determining which one is the best one for you. Whether you’re looking for a machine to use with a league or other organization or want something to take to the park to play some ball with your kids, there’s a pitching machine for you.
Use our buyer’s guide to help you cut through the conclusion then check out the seven best pitching machines we reviewed. You’ll get a feeling for how much variety there is out there and hopefully be better able to decide what kind of a pitching machine will help you with your game the most.