The pitching machine has evolved into a complex machine since its invention in 1897. There are a few factors we consider vital when picking out the best pitching machine. These are:
- The best pitching machine has at least three wheels
- Can pitch real baseballs and softballs
- Has a ball feeder adapter to aid solo practice
- Throws different types of pitches
- Is portable
While no one pitching machine ticks all these boxes, we settled on the Sports Attack Junior Hack Attack as the option that comes closest. This three-wheel pitching machine won’t tear up your baseballs, and lets batters see the ball all the way from the feeder to help improve their timing. Its wheels can make all sorts of pitches, without needing adjustment when switching between different types of pitches. At 75 lbs, it isn’t the easiest thing to lug around. However, its wheels make it easy to move on and off the field, and it folds such that it fits into any car including compacts. That it is capable of using regulation leather baseballs is also a huge plus, hence why it’s our #1 choice for best pitching machine.
Not what you were looking for? Read on, we have other fantastic picks! We’ve reviewed the best pitching machines on the market today and the unique things they bring to the table.
Further on, we have a comprehensive buyer’s guide that covers what you need to consider when choosing a pitching machine, and the subtle differences between various brands and models.
So without further ado, here are our top choices.
Best Three-Wheeled Pitching Machine
The Junior Hack Attack ticks all the boxes required to make it a fantastic pitching machine. It carries the features of the Hack Attack Professional Pitching Machine, with the added benefit of being much cheaper, making it one of the best pitching machines on the market today. It also ticks all the boxes in our criteria for picking the best pitching machine. Here’s how:
The Junior Hack Attack 3’s independently controlled wheels allow it to make all sorts of pitches, from right and left handed curves, sliders, split fingers, knuckle and fastballs up to 75 MPH with a simple turn of the dial. Two-wheeled units need time consuming adjustments to the throwing head when switching from fastballs to curveballs or right to left handed breaking pitches.
Further, its unique three-wheel design allows batters to clearly see the ball all the way from the feeder to release, just like they would with a real live pitcher which helps the batter to improve their timing. This is an especially important skill for younger players to develop early on.
Because the throwing head pivots in any direction, the Junior hack Attack is also ideal for ground balls, line drives, pop-ups and fly balls. This is a good substitute for fungo work, because it’s almost impossible to create the kind of spin the Hack Attack can, with a wood fungo bat.
Its two front wheels of the machine make it extremely portable and easy to fit into a compact car. Moving it on and off the field is also a fairly painless exercise.
Finally, the Junior Hack Attack is capable of using regulation leather baseballs. This way, hitters get to practice with actual baseballs without running the risk of damaging their expensive bats.
From fastballs, sliders, screwballs, changeups, curveballs to knuckleballs, the Pro Line 3 does it all. It throws 37 different pitches at 12 different spin directions, with speeds ranging between 40 MPH and 100 MPH for baseballs, and 36 to 90 MPH for softballs.
The digital readout on its control panel has inputs for speed, direction and amount of spin. enables you to set a pitch and your ideal speed and spin, meaning you don’t have to manually change wheel speeds or adjust the angle of the wheels. Simply set your desired speed, choose the amount of spin (high, medium, low or none) and the pitching machine will automatically adjust the spin of the wheels to suit the pitch.
Additionally, the Rawlings Pro Line 3 can throw baseballs, softballs or lite balls.
The Spinball Wizard 3 Wheel Pitching Machine is quite similar to the Rawlings Pro Line 3. They are even made by the same manufacturer – Spinball Sports. However, the Rawlings Pro Line 3 comes with a push button digital control panel, while the Spinball uses analog knobs to select speed, pitch type and spin. This additional convenience makes the Rawlings Pro Line 3 cost $500 more than the Spinball Wizard 3. Is it worth the extra cash? You decide.
All Rawlings pitching machines use solid wheels which last much longer, are more accurate, and need a shorter recovery time between pitches than other machines that use air filled tires.
Its 3 wheel design has several benefits over a traditional 2 wheel design:
- Three wheels offer better contact with the ball, thus better pitch control – much like throwing a baseball with three fingers instead of two.
- Two-wheeled pitching machines can block the batter’s view of the ball. The third wheel enables hitters to see the ball from the ball feeder ramp, which helps batters perfect their timing.
- The third wheel makes pitch location easy to control. You no longer have to stop to adjust clamps or rotate the machine to change the type of pitch.
We loved its convenient 3 -wheel design. Second, it threw consistent and accurate pitches all through, making it one of the best pitching machines on the market today.
Best Two-Wheeled Pitching Machine
Heater Sports had taken this machine out of production for a few years to fix a few of its flaws. The new version is now a lot more durable and accurate than the old one was. The result is one of the best two-wheel pitching machines on the market today.
The Deuce is perfect for kids ages 8 to those in high school. Its dual pneumatic tires have dual variable wheel speed controls that can be adjusted independently to easily throw a number of pitches at speeds ranging between 15 and 75 MPH.
Its pivot head design allows you to tilt the machine to throw fastballs, curveballs, and sliders, pop flies, and grounders at different speeds and different angles. It also throws right to left handed breaking pitches as well as 3/4 breaking balls. This machine also has adjustable pitch height which enables you to customize your pitches to problem areas.
Additionally, the wheels are enclosed in an all-metal housing which adds to player safety, and its steel legs have rubber tips for durability.
The Deuce comes with a free 12-ball automatic feeder included, something that you’d otherwise need to spend hundreds of dollars to buy if you chose a different pitching machine. This automatic ball feeder, pitches a ball every 8 seconds which makes it easy to practice alone.
The Deuce operates on standard 110V AC power and can plug into any standard wall outlet. Alternatively, you have the option to use a battery pack (sold separately) for convenience.
The Deuce can be used with both regulation baseballs or lite-balls, but it is advisable to use Heater Sports approved lite-balls over real baseballs. They are more accurate, last longer, and don’t damage your pitching machine wheels unlike regulation baseballs.
The BATA-2 pitching machine is the ideal choice of many Major League Baseball and college teams, and capable of throwing fastballs, curves, sinkers, sliders & knuckleballs at speeds ranging from 25-100 mph for baseball, and 25-70 mph for softball.
This machine throws baseballs, 11 inch and 12 inch softballs, as well as dimpled balls, and runs on Runs on 110 AC so it can be plugged into any standard wall outlet.
The BATA-2 has a 3 way swivel head that makes it easy to throw grounders and fly balls. It has built-in solid wheels that last longer, need a shorter time to recover between pitches, have good balance and pitch truer than air-filled tyres.
How To Choose The Best Pitching Machine – A Buyer’s Guide
There are plenty of options to pick from when choosing the best pitching machine. Each of them has subtle differences, making settling on one a confusing and often involving task.
Picking the best one is mostly dependent on your preferences. Each player has different needs or circumstances, so don’t shell out on that $3000 pitching machine just yet.
First, consider what your most important factors are. Then decide on the best pitching machine for you depending on your budget, features, and preferences.
What Type of Pitching Machine Do You Need?
Beginner – These machines are a worthy investment for kids just starting. Start with a tossing machine, which is a great way to eliminate fear, and foster growth. Some tossing machines pitch at speeds as low as 10 MPH and are portable and easy to store or carry around.
Little League Baseball – Pitching machines are approved for Little League for hitters between 6 and 11 years old. Even so, they are most commonly used by 7 to 9-year olds. Remember to check that only RIF (Reduced Injury Factor) balls such as Wiffle or dimpled balls are being used in the pitching machines. RIF balls have a maximum speed of about 60 MPH, which reduces the chances of serious injury.
High School/College/Semi-Pro/Pro – Here, the best pitching machine can pitch various balls at various speeds. Ideal machines will have 2 wheels, dual motors, and will pitch balls at speeds from 80-90 MPH and above. Such pitching machines can also throw fastballs, sliders, curveballs, and some can even throw knuckleballs. They will be ideal for fielding practice as well – They come with a 360-degree swivel head for throwing pop-ups, grounders in whichever direction.
Because of how costly some of the best pitching machines are, the machine you buy needs to last a good long time. Sadly though, many people don’t consider this an important factor, often resulting in disappointment. D is one of the top factors we consider when making our picks.
One of the quickest ways to tell how long your pitching machine will last is to look at the warranty. You can be sure that your machine will last longer if it comes with a hefty 5 or 10-year warranty. Manufacturers won’t give such a warranty if they know their machines won’t last the duration.
If your kid is young and just starting, you’re better off buying one of the cheaper pitching machines than other expensive options, even though high-end models are a lot more durable. You can upgrade once you’re confident your child is interested and intends to continue playing.
Instead, pick a pitching machine such as Heater Sports, which is affordable, dependable, and is a ton of fun for your aspiring big leaguer. These machines do well to build up confidence as well as develop perfect timing and muscle memory.
If you have older, more experienced players, then it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll keep playing for a few more years to come. In that case, choosing a pitching machine that carries a longer warranty (e.g., five years) is a lot more practical. Pitching Machines such as First Pitch, JUGS, or Rawlings/Spinball come with extended warranties.
Real Balls vs. Pitching Machine Balls
Each pitching machine description listing has a section on the ball used with that particular pitching machine.
The best pitching machines can throw different kinds of balls. However, despite what the description says, it is NOT advisable to use regulation baseballs with your pitching machine for several reasons:
- Pitching machine wheels wear out faster if real balls are used, seriously degrading them.
- The paint used on real baseballs will often flake, coating the pitching machine wheels and making them so smooth that they can’t correctly grip balls.
- The seams on real baseballs and softballs make for an uneven surface, causing them to throw inaccurate pitches.
- The pressure exerted by the pitching machine on real balls causes the balls to become soft and rip apart when thrown from pitching machines.
As a result, pitching machine manufacturers recommend using dimpled pitching machine balls as opposed to regulation balls. They pitch a lot more accurately and last a long, long time.
If you do decide to use regulation balls, use only the best leather baseballs/softballs. Cheap synthetic balls may severely damage your machine.
Baseball vs. Softball vs. Combo Pitching Machines
Some pitching machines are designed to throw either softballs or baseballs exclusively. However, if you want a machine that can throw both baseballs and softballs, then your best bet is to go for a combo baseball/softball pitching machine. It can easily throw baseballs, softballs, as well as a variety of other ball types.
The Louisville Slugger Upm 50 Black Flame is one example of a combo pitching machine, and so is the more expensive, more durable, and versatile First Pitch Curveball Pitching Machine.
Pitch speed is another thing you may want to take into consideration when buying a pitching machine. However, this depends on how you intend to set up your machine.
If you intend on setting up your pitching machine at a regulation distance, speed should be one of the top things you consider.
However, it’s not as crucial if you intend to be much closer to the machine. In such a case, if your setup is in a 24 ft batting cage, the ball will get to you a lot faster and requires quick reaction times.
You will eventually take your pitching machine out in the field where you may not have an electrical outlet available. If that’s the case, you have a few options:
Buy a pitching machine with an internal rechargeable battery. The Zooka pitching machine is a good example and is excellent for anyone who strongly values portability (You don’t have to deal with extension cords and generators). The Zooka Pitching Machine can throw about 500-800 pitches on a single charge. Additionally, it is lightweight – weighing in at less than 30 pounds.
Take Louisville Slugger pitching machines, for instance. They are fully mechanical and do not require any electricity or batteries to operate. With most other machines, though, you are going to need a 120V generator to power them. Because of this, Louisville Slugger pitching machines are so much lighter than other motorized pitching machines on the market – They weigh anywhere from 12-25 pounds.
If you need a lightweight, compact, portable pitching machine, Louisville Slugger pitching machines maybe your best option.
On the other hand, pitching machine brands like BATA, JUGS, and First Pitch are bulkier – They weigh about 65 to 115 pounds. To remedy this, you can buy a wheel kit (if your machine allows for one), which makes hauling your pitching machine to and from the field much less stressful.
There are two types of tires used in pitching machines – pneumatic tires and solid tires. They both have distinct differences in maintenance, durability, and how quickly they bounce back/recover between pitches.
Much like the tires on your car, pneumatic tires are filled with air. However, they are a lot smaller – Sort of like the tires on your lawnmower. They are commonly used on pitching machines from JUGS, First Pitch and Heater Sports.
Pneumatic tires have a few disadvantages:
- They wear out faster than solid tires.
- Tire pressure on both tires has to be correct, or the pitching won’t be accurate. Tire pressure can be affected by factors such as the outside temperature outside and the number of pitches thrown.
- They take longer to recover between pitches.
- Pneumatic tires flatten out at higher speeds. You may have to readjust the gap between the wheels whenever the pitch speed changes drastically.
If you decide to go for a machine with pneumatic tires, make sure you have a pressure pump and pressure gauge handy.
Much like lawnmower wheels, solid tires are not filled with air. The best pitching machines such as BATA and Rawlings use solid tires.
Solid tires fix the issues faced when using pneumatic tires. Here are some distinct advantages:
- They last much longer.
- Solid tires recover quicker between pitches.
- Despite the pitching speed, solid tires will keep their shape and won’t flatten out. So no more change the gap between the wheels or wheel and stop plate when pitching at higher speeds.
- You no longer have to worry about tire pressure. Also no need to haul an air pump or pressure gauge with you everywhere you go. Because of this, pitches are more consistent despite temperature changes outside of the number of pitches thrown.
The pressure from pitching machine tires has been known to soften regulation baseballs & softballs or damage their covers. Regulation balls have also been known to wear out pitching machine tires.
Practicing alone can be quite a hassle when no one is around to feed balls into the pitching machine.
When practicing alone, we consider an auto ball feeder to be an absolute necessity.
Some pitching machines come with an auto ball feeder included, while some don’t. For those machines that don’t, buying one is an option you may need to consider.
Notably, pitching machines such as First Pitch, BATA, JUGS, and Rawlings/Spinball DO NOT include auto ball feeders. However, if you don’t mind spending the additional cash for this convenience, auto-feeders will set you back anywhere between $50 to $300.
Different Types of Pitches
As kids play more, they are invariably going to face pitchers with different techniques. Some of these pitchers will throw anything from screwballs, sliders, and curveballs. Buying a pitching machine that throws different types of pitches is essential as you hone your skills.
Finally, we cover the price. “How much does it cost?” is something we hear a lot. You shouldn’t let price alone dictate the pitching machine you buy. However, this is most definitely one of the more critical factors on the list.
When picking out the best pitching machine, you’ll have to make several tradeoffs. Cost notwithstanding, pick the factors you consider to be most important. Once that’s done, you can then pick the most affordable option that still meets all or most of your needs.