The pitching machine was invented in 1897 and has since evolved into a complex machine, perfect for batters set on improving their swing.
Pitching machines are quite diverse. Low-end models cost as little as $50, while top-of-the-line machines cost as much as $4,000. As can be seen, the question isn’t “what is the best pitching machine?” Instead, we should be asking “what is the best machine according to my budget and my needs?”
BEST PITCHING MACHINE REVIEWS
The Zooka ZS740 is another outstanding pitching machine. This is an easy to use, affordable and fully digital machine, with features that make it one of the best pitching machines we’ve tested.
Weighing in at a lightweight 25 pounds, carrying it around is a hassle-free ordeal. And if you include the tripod stand, it still weighs less than 30 pounds!
With the Zooka ZS740, you won’t have to deal with annoying power cords or generators either. This machine comes with a 12-volt internal rechargeable battery that packs enough juice to get you through those long practice sessions. Simply charge it at home and be on your way.
Should the battery run dry, you have the option of adding a backup Zooka external battery – all without having to take off the internal battery. This addition can get you an extra 1000 pitches at 40 MPH or 600 pitches at 60 MPH, which should be more than enough.
When it comes to safety, the Zooka ZS740 stands head and shoulders above the competition. It doesn’t contain any moving parts, unlike other pitching machines that include dangerous spinning wheels. Instead, it uses an air compression system that throws the ball out of the barrel. You no longer have to worry about little fingers getting caught in the wheels. Furthermore, the Zooka digital interface can be password protected for enhanced safety.
Parents love the Zooka because it’s easy to use, portable, lightweight and is also very well constructed.
The Zooka ZS740 uses compressed air instead of wheels to launch balls, so it won’t destroy your baseballs or tear up the wheels. Which means you save money you would otherwise have spent on frequent, costly wheel replacements.
The Zooka also features an easy tilt and swivel tripod stand. This allows you to make easy height and location adjustments so you can throw fly balls or even 12 story high pop-flys. Its panning feature positions allow it to also throw grounders around the field for fielding practice.
Consider buying the Zooka Autoloader which holds about 16 baseballs. This provides for additional convenience when playing solo, and should give you several hits before you need to reload.
The First Pitch Baseline Pitching Machine is First Pitch’s entry level budget model. However, it still comes packed with the same great features, versatility, and solid construction of other First Pitch models, only smaller, portable, and more affordable.
Assembled in the USA, this pitching machine can throw dimple balls baseballs/softballs from 10 to 60 MPH and regulation baseballs/softballs from 10 to 70 MPH.
Its steel and aluminum construction makes it a lot lighter and more durable and than other pitching machines. The First Pitch Baseline is just as great for pitching baseballs/softballs as it is for fielding drills, which gives you a break from your fungo bat.
The First Pitch Baseline is fairly lightweight, weighing in at 55 pounds. It pitches pop-ups, fly balls, fastballs, changeups, and grounders, and can be used with regulation baseballs, 11″ and 12″ softballs, or dimple balls.
This machine allows you to adjust pitch height and speed quite easily, has an easily adjustable pitch angle, and has reversible legs make it quick and easy to switch between baseball and softball.
We were really impressed by the performance of this 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 Deuce has dual pneumatic tires with dual variable wheel speed controls. They can be adjusted independently to easily throw a number of pitches at speeds ranging between 15 and 75 MPH.
Additionally, the wheels are enclosed in an all-metal housing for safety, and its steel legs have rubber tips for durability.
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.
The Deuce comes with a 12-ball automatic feeder included, something that you’d otherwise need to spend hundreds of dollars to buy. This automatic ball feeder pitches a ball every 8 seconds which makes it easy to practice alone.
Unlike other pitching machines which are extremely heavy, the Deuce weighs 75 lbs and is fairly easy to load into your car or move to and from the field.
It 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.
JUGS pitching machines are bound to feature in any conversation about the best pitching machine. This is a lightweight pitching machine that is great for honing the swings of your up-and-coming hitters. It throws pitches at speeds ranging from 30 to 50 miles per hour or 85 mph at 25 feet and is recommended for players 8 years old and up.
The JUGS Lite-Flite only uses Lite-Flite baseballs, 11- or 12-inch Lite-Flite softballs or Bulldog polyballs by JUGS. Using anything else may possibly damage your machine. For this reason, this pitching machine is great for practicing with younger children since these balls are lighter. This goes a long way in helping young players hone their swing without worrying about getting hit by the ball.
This machine throws a wide range of pitches from fastballs, sliders, to curveballs. The Lite-Flite can be calibrated to throw pitches to either side of the plate, throwing both left and right-handed pitches which is quite a nifty feature rarely found at this price range.
Its 360-degree swivel-design base can be adjusted to throw fly balls, grounders, and pop-ups – a plus for players who want to up their defense game. Switch-and-Play knobs in its Quick-Change design allow you to switch from baseball to softball in seconds.
The JUGS “always see the ball” delivery system is another nice feature that helps batters see the ball all the way from the chute, helping them develop perfect timing at the plate.
The JUGS Lite-Flite connects to a 110-volt AC, although you have the option of adding a JUGS rechargeable battery pack which is sold separately. This battery pack takes about 4 hours to charge up and lasts about 3 hours of continuous use.
Named the official Pony Baseball and Softball League pitching machine, the Ultimate Pitching Machine (UPM) 45 is a fun, affordable way for players to perfect their swing and build confidence.
As a coach, pitching machines keep your throwing arm from turning into jelly and allow you to focus on other aspects of the game. The Blue Flame throws reliable, consistent, and mostly accurate pitches.
Weighing in at only 23 pounds, the UPM 45 Blue Flame is extremely portable. Because it does not use electricity or batteries, it is hassle-free (no dealing with generators, battery packs or annoying power cords) and can easily be used both indoors or outdoors.
This pitching machine is easy to use and has adjustment knobs that work well to easily raise or lower pitches. Additionally, the Blue Flame can throw regulation baseballs/softballs at 18-45 MPH from 60 feet, and lighter balls at 60MPH.
The UPM also doesn’t require special pitching machine balls – It can use regular baseballs without ripping them apart. It can also throw any type of ball, from baseballs, softballs, and even soccer and volleyballs
The UPM 45 Blue Flame does not work solely as a pitching machine. It is also great for fielding practice, as well. With a simple adjustment, you’ll be throwing fly balls or grounders in no time.
Louisville made a new machine called the Louisville Slugger Upm 50 Black Flame Pitching Machine which builds on the Blue Flame’s great stats. What’s new?
- New speed settings – allows you to pitch to speeds of up to 60 mph.
- New throwing arm that allows for longer and higher fly-balls.
The Rawlings Pro Line 3 is as innovative as pitching machines get. We were blown away by what this thing can do.
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 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 for select speed, pitch type, and spin. This added 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. First, three wheels offer better contact with the ball, thus better pitch control – much like throwing a baseball with three fingers instead of two.
Secondly, 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.
Finally, 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.
The BSN Bulldog is a versatile combo pitching machine that’s lightweight, great for both indoor and outdoor use, and very easy to operate.
For instance, its heavy duty legs adjust for baseball or softball pitching in just a matter of seconds. Additionally, its urethane wheel is durable and gets rid of any issues that may be caused by air pressure.
It throws both baseballs, as well as 11″ and 12″ softballs at speeds of 30-60 mph at an impressive 6-second pitch interval.
The BSN Bulldog runs on 110V AC or a 0.25-HP DC motor.
The Junior Hack Attack bears all the unique features of the Hack Attack Professional Pitching Machine. However, it’s cheaper, making it one of the best pitching machines on the market today.
Its unique three-wheel design allows batters to see the ball from the feeder to release, just like they would with a real live pitcher. This helps improve the batter’s timing – an especially important skill to develop early on.
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 70+ 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.
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 its almost impossible to create the kind of spin the Hack Attack can, with a wood fungo bat.
In addition, the two front wheels of the machine make it extremely portable. It can fit easily into a compact car, and moving it on and off the field is fairly painless.
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.
Suitable for ages kids from 8 to 15 years, the JUGS JR Pitching machine is the best pitching machine for youth, used by more youth leagues worldwide than any other machine in the world.
Built with special non-marking pneumatic tires, the JUGS JR throws real baseballs, lite balls, dimple balls, and even tennis balls.
Its built-in digital speed setting system is easy to set up and allows you to easily choose any speed between 15 and 60 mph. Younger players who are just starting out can start out slow and build their way up to faster as their skills improve.
JUGS Sports’ use a patented “Always See The Ball” delivery system which helps hitters see the ball and know when it’s coming, which improves timing and builds confidence.
This machine throws fastballs and changeups, and because of its 360-degree swivel base, it’s also ideal for defensive and offensive drills. It covers the entire field and throws grounders, pop-ups, fly balls, line drives, etc.
It connects to any standard 110V AC power, and is powered by an impressive 0.25 horsepower, 3 amp motor.
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. It 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 the air-filled tires on other pitching machines.
The Bata-2 is the only pitching machine with Soft Tread tires that are specifically designed to pitch real leather balls.
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 fairly subtle differences which make settling on one a confusing and often involving task.
Picking the best one is largely 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 out. 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 use in 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 is one that can pitch a variety of balls at various speeds. Ideal machines will have features such as 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 also 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. This 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 long if it comes with a hefty 5 or 10-year warranty. Manufacturers wouldn’t give such a warranty if they know their machines wouldn’t last the duration.
If your kid is young and just starting out, you’re better off buying one of the cheaper pitching machines as opposed to other expensive options, despite the fact that high-end models are a lot more durable. This is until you’re certain 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 5 years) is a lot more practical. Pitching Machines such as First Pitch, JUGS, or Rawlings/Spinball come with long warranties and are a perfect pick.
Real Balls vs Pitching Machine Balls
Each pitching machine description listing has a section on the kind of ball that can be 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 properly 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 do serious 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.
This is another thing you may want to take into consideration when buying a pitching machine. However, this depends on how you intend on setting 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 important 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 quicker reaction times.
You are eventually going to 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 great 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 compared to 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 may be your best option.
On the other hand, pitching machine brands like BATA, JUGS and First Pitch are much heavier – 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 2 types of tires used in pitching machines – pneumatic tires and solid tires. They both have distinct differences in terms of maintenance, durability, 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 lawn mower. 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. This is especially difficult because 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 or 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 really important as you hone your skills.
Finally, we cover 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 important 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.