Every little leaguer, big leaguer, and medium leaguer wants to improve perfect their swing and start hitting balls out of the park. It’s simple, home runs are just way more fun and exciting than groundouts to shortstop.
So what does it take to get the perfect stroke? A ton of practice. That means a lot of batting practice and let me tell you from experience – Dad’s arm isn’t gonna hold up all year.
Here’s where our list for best pitching machine comes to save the day. We are going to bring you the top ten pitching machines for the year, as well tell you exactly what you should be looking for when you’re buying one of these bad boys.
What to look for to get the most out of your pitching machine?
For us here at Sporting Vault, one of the most important things for all sporting equipment is if will it last. A pitching machine can be a large purchase and if it goes down the tubes halfway through the season we won’t be happy with that. Ideally a pitching machine should last a half a decade, and if it’s well maintained over 10 years.
Professional, college and even high school pitchers often get clocked in the 90 mph range. Some have been known to pump it up as fast as 106 mph. Not everyone will need this velocity, but it’s good to know what range you’ll need before you start. Think about if you plan on using this pitching machine for a while. It might be smart to have fastballs at 50 mph for your little leaguer, but in five years they’ll probably need something closer to 70 or 80 mph.
If pitchers only threw one type of pitch wouldn’t that be great? For us hitters yes. No more guessing. No more getting fooled by nasty changeups. No more swing through disappearing curveballs. When it comes to pitching machines this should also be another important consideration. A machine that can throw in curves and sliders as well as fastballs can really help a swing get better.
Not all of us own a pickup truck and can easily move around a large pitching machine from home to the field. That’s why it’s important to know if a portable pitching machine is better suited for you. Will it require an extension cord or does it have a battery? Also another important factor for it’s portability. Does it weigh half a ton and require three friends to move? Maybe you will be mostly alone and require a self loading pitching machine.
Requires Special Balls
The final and maybe most crucial aspect of a pitching machine decision is whether it requires a special type of ball. Many machines these days are packaged with a unique baseball for recommended use. This can really be a downer, especially if you already own two big buckets full of batting practice balls. It probably took you the better half of a decade to scrounge all those balls.Now you’re going to have to purchase at least one more bucket of synthetic balls for your new pitching machine. It can be a downer, but it can also hopefully be another long term purchase like your awesome new pitching machine.
Best Pitching Machine Reviews
The JUGS Lite-Flite Machine is our winner for best children’s pitching machine. It is a top/back loading machine that can reach 50 mph. If you move the machine closer (35-40ft) it can simulate up to 70mph. It is extremely consistent and can throw off speed pitches well. One thing to note is that with each different pitch change, the Lite-Flite will require a recalibration. In essence, you will not be able to fool the hitter or simulate an actual pitcher who can change speeds on a whim. It is still excellent to get practice in on staying back on the curveball.
When it is delivered it comes in two strong portable bags for storage and weighs in at 35 lbs. All in all we would consider this to be an exceptionally portable pitching machine. Setup and breakdown can be done under 10 minutes if you’ve met the task before. The Lite-Flite will require a power source if you do not opt to purchase the rechargeable battery pack which is unfortunately sold separately.
The manufacturer recommends that only its signature balls be used with the machine. These are synthetic balls that are quite a bit lighter than real baseballs and softballs. In this sense they are a huge plus for small children. These balls will be much safer and can slowly begin to build confidence in a young player. Fly balls? Ground balls? Softballs? Check, check and check (with special attachment). It can do it all. If you’re looking for an all around sturdy pitching machine to help a child in a safe environment, you’ve found it here with the JUGS Lite-Flite pitching machine.
The First Pitch Baseline Machine is the manufacturer’s entry level budget model, but that doesn’t mean it can’t provide you awesome features and and all around durable frame. This machine tops out at 70 mph which is certainly reasonable up through high school level play. It can throw both synthetic dimple or normal baseballs as well as softballs.
No special tools are required to make pitch adjustments, however those adjustments are limited to speed and location. It comes with an easy to use velocity dial, swivel base (which rotates 360 degrees) and reversible legs to find the perfect BP sweetspot. The First Pitch Baseline cannot throw offspeed pitches but does successfully imitate grounders, fly balls and line drives.
The manufacturer provides a five year warranty with residential use which covers all mechanical and electric parts. With a warranty like this, it makes the higher price tag somewhat more reasonable. At 57 lbs, the First Pitch Baseline is not as mobile as other pitching machines on the market. There are no options for a rechargeable battery, so be sure to bring a solid extension cord with you. You may even find a portable generator to be a smart add-on if you’re looking to keep this pitching machine on the move.
The BSN Bulldog Pitching Machine rounds out our list of the middle of the pack pitching machines. This machines touts heavy duty legs that are easily convertible from baseball to softball and back again. It also uses a single urethane wheel to simulate pitches 30-60 mph while minimizing issues that arrive from other inflatable pitching machine tires.
A pivot system is in place to adjust the height of pitches, but the BSN Bulldog cannot drop in a big number two or snap a slider off. It is for fastballs only. This machine can utilize regular baseballs or plastic/rubber cage balls, but as always these type of machines can wear your regular baseballs out much more quickly.
Running on 110 volt AC, this machine brings a ¼ HP motor which is hand fed one ball at a time. This means it will require at least one other person unless you are interested in purchasing a custom ball feeder. This machine weighs in at just under 50 lbs so you are getting a pretty solid machine, but not as portable as the JUGS Lite-Flite. I would say this is the best pitching machine for a little league backyard batting cage.
If you are looking for a machine that can do everything quickly and easily the Sports Attack Junior Attack pitching machine is the choice. This machine takes the honor of our Editor’s Choice Award. It uses a three wheel system which can seamlessly vary pitches in seconds. One change of dial for the left wheel and it will be firing filthy right handed curveballs. This machine can even throw knuckleballs if set correctly. Eat your heart out Tim Wakefield!
The Sports Attack Junior Attack comes with a heavy duty three leg extra wide support system. It is 75 lbs, but it has two large wheels attached to it’s hull for easy transportation from car to mound/cage. The website boasts that it’s junior version is small enough to fit inside of a Mini Cooper, but seeing as my wife is out getting her hair done, I can’t check that fact with 100% accuracy. It is hinged at the base to easily pivot into the perfect fungo machine for pop ups (up to 220 ft) and ground balls.
It’s powder coated rust-proof steel frame combined with the five year manufacturer’s warranty will ensure that your money is well spent on limitless seasons of use. Machine does require standard 110V power supply; and is designed for use with regulation, dimpled, wiffle and softer practice balls. Velocity of the Junior Attack ranged from 35 to 70 mph. This machine does everything. If you are comfortable with the price and you don’t need 95+ mph this is the machine of choice.
As with all JUGS products the JUGS MVP Baseball pitching machine is a high end quality product. It is specifically designed to be the workhorse of your machine pitch little league. With proper maintenance and care this machine will surely be worth it’s price tag over the years. This machine is designed to throw accurate strikes on a consistent basis and does so spectacularly well.
It is a one wheel design so we’re only getting fastballs here, but as stated from the manufacturer this thing has one job and does it extremely well. It runs off of 110v power supply or 1000w generator for its 1.25 horsepower motor. Speed is dialed in with a high precision digital readout display so it makes it super easy to adjust the speed from 20 to 52 mph.
Recommended for ages 6-12, the JUGS MVP weighs just 56 lbs making it fairly portable and can use any baseball on the market. Some users have recommended keeping a close eye on the tire, as it can drop air pressure, which will cause accuracy issues. Also should you find the wheel is slightly uneven due rough spots from normal wear and tear, feel free to run a light grit sandpaper while running to smooth it out and improve consistency.
The Mound Yeti 2 is a literal monster! This things looks like it should be on a tank in World War Two and not throwing batting practice. I mean that as a compliment, because this thing is an absolute stud. It’s the first model that we’ve discussed that can get over the 70 mph mark – up to 100 mph in fact. It utilizes a two urethane wheel system and can throw all types of pitches with any type of ball, but the manufacturer recommends use of dimpled.
If my tank comment above didn’t get the point across, this thing is sturdy. It will take a licking and keep on ticking. Like other machines it has a quick pivot head to get good angles for fly ball practice or heavy ground balls. Although it weighs in on the heavy side at 104 lbs, the machine has rolling wheels for portability. Requires 110v power supply.
Unlike most machines, the Mound Yeti 2 comes with a softball kit included in the purchase price. You will receive a set of shorter legs (to simulate the release point in softball) and a larger ball chute to accommodate softballs. The swapping process can be tedious, but a regular do-it-yourselfer should arrive with little trouble. It is really the ideal machine if you’ve got a wide range of users little leaguers, softball and even professional level players.
Of all the pitching machines discussed so far, the Louisville Slugger UPM 45 may be the most versatile. This bad boy can literally throw any type of ball. Hard balls, fast pitch softballs, dimple balls, light flight, plastic and even soccer and volleyballs. I wouldn’t put tomatoes or water balloons past it either (don’t get any ideas). Due to it’s simple mechanical action lever system, it can handle anything you can throw at it.
It does not require a power supply as it is mechanically powered, and comes in at less than 25 lbs making it highly mobile. No issues of cumbersome movement or awkward storage. Unfortunately, this versatility comes at the cost of power and variance. As the UPM 45 Blue Flame is self powered by it’s own mechanical energy the maximum velocity is only 45 mph. It also can only throw fastballs as no other extra forces are being used to propel the ball.
What it lacks in power and pitch variance, it certainly covers in versatility and price point. It is accurate and can consistently throw precise fly balls and hard ground balls to incorporate in your drills. This machine has been officially authorized for use by teams in the majority of youth leagues in America including Babe Ruth Baseball and Softball, the Cal Ripken Division of Babe Ruth Baseball, Pony League Baseball and Softball, and many more. For a coach or player on a budget who doesn’t need to hit top velocities this is the machine for you. Read Sporting Vault’s in depth review on the Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame.
The JUGS Small-Ball pitching machine is for those of you who want something different. JUGS advertises this model by saying: “the toughest thing to do in sports is hit a round ball with a round bat. Now you can hone your skills even further with the Jugs Small-Ball pitching machine, which tests your mettle with a ball half the size.” What we have here is a solid machine that launches softer and smaller balls.
Some even go as far as to note that it can be used indoors, but I would be very wary with anything glass or delicate around. An empty basement might do, but I personally, like to hit and watch the beauty of the trajectory of my batted balls. It has a speed dial, throws fastballs and curveballs, and can simulate speeds up to 75 mph. It is considerably more difficult to hit these tiny balls, so if you’re looking to improve hand-eye coordination this machine is where it’s at.
It weighs 23 lbs and you can take it anywhere. The Jugs Small-Ball uses standard 110v or the JUGS rechargeable battery which is sold separately. Obviously this model is not built as sturdily as some of the heavy hitters, but it is compact and comes with a one year warranty. The downside with this guy, is that you’ll need to purchase the 5-inch balls in addition to the machine. At around $1 per ball when you buy in bulk they’re not going to light your wallet on fire. For even more practice try using in combination with the JUGS Hitting Stick-Bat. Your vision and concentration will really be honed after use.
The Franklin Sports MLB Power Pro is a small machine that comes with some unique features. It comes with three presets speeds: 10 mph, 15 mph and 20 mph; and a three position pitch angle adjustment. This little guy will also let you know exactly when the next ball is coming with it’s flashing red indicator light at release.
Smaller children would really get a kick out of this. Those who are really just beginning to gravitate to the sport might be more drawn to a small pitching machine like this. It can run on 4 “C” size batteries but in our experience it is more safe to utilize the included AC adaptor that way you guaranteed not to run out of juice.
Overall, we found that the machine really lacked durability and power, two things which are ever so important to the buying decision. Much of the machine is made from plastic which doesn’t give us much confidence. We also found that the machine can be extremely erratic. Not knowing if the next pitch will thrown 4 feet outside can be good to practice your patience at the plate, but if you want to work on your swing this might not be the machine for you.
Conclusion & Recommendations
Mastering your sweet stroke is something every hitter wants to accomplish. Every little advantage can go a long way in helping achieve your goals and choosing the best pitching machine will get you there even faster. For beginners, you may have not ever thought about taking extra swings in your off time with a pitching machine. And that’s okay, because we’ve helped to show you why you need them and how to make the best decision when buying one. Practice is the most important tool you can utilize when trying to improve your hitting acumen. Good, solid repetitions will go a long way when you dig into the box for real game time action. No matter what you’re looking for, you can rest assured that the guide and reviews above will help you get an idea of where to start as you look to up that home run count for the next season.