Batting is an important skill in baseball and softball. Half of the game is fielding, the other half is batting. Every player should practice both aspects of the game, and one way to practice your batting skills is to use a pitching machine.
Pitching machines are devices baseball and softball players use to work on their batting skills. These machines are designed in different ways, but in general, they have machinery that launches balls of varying types at the batter. The speeds can be adjusted by the batter or the coach.
The rest of this article will cover what pitching machines are, how they work, why they don’t use real baseballs, and what machines use real baseballs.
What Pitching Machines Are
Pitching machines are devices used in baseball or softball for batters to practice their timing and hitting skills. Although the machines vary in design, in general, they include machinery that launches a ball at the player at a speed the player or coach can control.
At any batting cage, you go to, you’ll find pitching machines. Professionals and rookies alike use them since they’re easily accessible at cages, in stores, or online. You can get some cheap ones from online sites, but keep in mind they’re more prone to breaking.
How Pitching Machines Work
To work with a pitching machine, first, you have to choose a model. Machines will include a power strip so you can turn it on, a wheel to launch the ball, and a miles-per-hour setting. First, you’ll need to plug it in and turn it on. Once the wheel is spinning, choose the mph you want.
Be careful and remember not to touch the wheel. When it’s spinning at high speeds, you’re risking injury or damage to the machine. After everything is set up, you have to test it. To test it, set up a home plate using whatever material you’d like, and align the device that way.
Align it so the ball gets launched directly over the plate. Then, you’re all ready to bat. Have the player step in and practice. If the machine ever gets unaligned, then pause to realign it. It’s important to keep it aligned so you don’t risk hitting the player.
Why They Don’t Use Real Baseballs
Although you can find machines that use real baseballs, most don’t. The balls many uses have flat seams to protect the machinery and also the player. Since the balls are getting launched at high speeds, using a softer ball leads to less injury if it malfunctions and hits the batter.
Rubber balls are the balls commonly used at batting cages. The rubber balls are easier on the machinery and lead to fewer malfunctions. These rubber balls are more compressed, which means they’re heavier than the average baseball or softball.
Pitching Machines That Use Real Baseballs
If you’re looking for pitching machines that use real baseballs, you have a few options. For starters, you can get a pitching machine that’s made for real balls. One is a Zooka. If you have kids, a Zooka is a perfect device for you.
They use real balls, and even better, they don’t have wheels that could hurt your kids. There’s no exposed machinery; it’s all one launcher that’s contained and easy to keep out of a child’s hands. That makes for great safety and a lot of fun.
If that doesn’t appeal to you, then you can use a JUGS machine. JUGS is one of the most popular brands. I played softball for a decade, and almost every coach I had used a JUGS machine since they’re easy to use. It was so easy that I learned how to assemble it!
The best part about JUGs machines is that they use both real and fake balls. When I played, we used softer balls to avoid any serious injuries. However, if you’re looking for a device compatible with real baseballs or softballs, then JUGS is still a compatible option.
You can get both a Zooka and a JUGS at a sports store like Dick’s, or you can order them online. Zooka’s are less expensive than JUGS, but you can experiment with which machines you like by going to batting cages and testing them.