The Best Pitching Machines 2018 – Buyer’s Guide and Reviews
- THE BEST PITCHING MACHINES OF 2018
- #1 – Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame Pitching Machine: Best of the Best
- #2 – JUGS Lite-Flite Machine for Baseball and Softball: Runner-up
- #3 – Heater Sports PowerAlley Pro Real Baseball Pitching Machine: Also Great
- #4 – Jugs Small-Ball Pitching Machine: Also Great
- #5 – Franklin Sports MLB Super Star Batter and Fielder Multi-Function 4 in 1 Pitching Machine: Also Great
- #6 – Franklin MLB Sports Electronic Pitching Machine: Great for Beginners
- PITCHING MACHINES: A BUYER’S GUIDE
- THE BEST OF THE BEST PITCHING MACHINES OF 2018
The best pitching machine is an essential piece of equipment that is a common sight at pretty much every baseball practice these days. They give invaluable reps to developing players who rely on it to develop a good rhythm and sense of timing while facing hundreds of pitches. They are also an invaluable gift to parents and coaches alike who are no longer required to spend countless hours risking injury as they pitch to their kids.
As beneficial as the right pitching machines can be, they are certainly not cheap, either. And even then, there are a multitude of factors to be considered while buying one. And with a large range of top quality products currently out in the market, here’s my guide of the best 2018 pitching machines you should be taking a look at.
THE BEST PITCHING MACHINES OF 2018
#1 – Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame Pitching Machine: Best of the Best
The Louisville Slugger is one of the best pieces of pitching equipment available on the market currently, capable of a variety of highly accurate pitches. Unlike the other two pitching machines above, the Louisville is manually operated. It is also very much portable, however, weighing in at less than 25 pounds.
The Blue Flame has gained a widespread reputation for being highly accurate in its pitches and is handy for both pitching and for outfield catching practice. The machine has been well developed to help batters develop the perfect swing. This has also led to them being named the official pitching machine of Pony Baseball as well as the Softball League.
The Slugger is capable of pitching standard size baseballs at over 45mph as well as softballs at up to 60mph from different pitching angles, and is sure to be loved by coaches who would no longer have to spend endless hours pitching. The fact that the machine uses regulation baseball and softball also helps give batters live game practice, as compared to the use of special plastic balls. Additionally, the machine can be used to throw fly balls and groundballs, which can be very handy for coaches during fielding drills.
The Slugger has quickly become a must-have when it comes to train youth league players. Although not automatic, the Blue Flame is consistent and very precise when used in both batting and fielding drills and is surely an excellent choice to consider while investing in a pitching machine as it certainly delivers full value for your money.
#2 – JUGS Lite-Flite Machine for Baseball and Softball: Runner-up
JUGS is one of the more widely recognized names when it comes to baseball and softball equipment, and for good reason too, as their products generally tend to be of a very high quality and performance.
The Lite Flite is a battery operated automatic pitching machine that is capable of throwing a whole range of pitches – fastballs, sliders, curveballs, you name it. And since it comes with a 360-degree rotational base, it can also be used for practicing grounders, pop-ups and flyballs.
One of the biggest complaints with cheaper pitching machines is that they may not always be consistent with their pitching angles and speeds, but with the JUGS, you are sure to get what you paid for, with very precise pitching angles and speeds of up to 85mph. Another feature of the machine which I thought was very nifty but may tend to get overlooked by other companies, is that the machine can also simulate left-handed or right-handed pitches, which can be very useful in helping batters develop their game.
The Lite-Flite’s rechargeable batteries can last a good 3 hours or so when full charged, and while certainly portable and durable, it still feels like a pretty heavy piece of machinery for kids to lug around to practice. Also, the machine can only operate with the company’s own line of baseballs and softballs, which means you might want to look elsewhere if the kids are already used to or aiming to learn playing with regulation baseballs and softballs.
The Lite-Flite is certainly not cheap, but well worth the investment if you are in the market for a top quality pitching machine.
#3 – Heater Sports PowerAlley Pro Real Baseball Pitching Machine: Also Great
The PowerAlley Pro from Heater Sports is a mid-range pitching machine capable of pitching both lighter hard plastic balls as well as regulation baseballs, and can also be used in fielding drills.
The Pro Real can throw pitches at up to 60mph if you’re using the company’s own Pitches Lite-Balls, while it can also throw standard baseballs at up to 45mph. The machine has a pretty simple design and caters mainly to players aiming to work on their accuracy and hitting power as it is capable of pitching pretty accurate fastballs, while it can also be setup for players to practice catching grounders and flyballs.
The PowerAlley features a tripod base which also allows for height adjustments as per your requirements for pitching. The wheel also has a nylon-fiberglass housing for additional safety so that the pitches go exactly where you intend it to.
The machine is completely electrically powered, meaning it needs to be plugged into a wall socket at all times during usage, which means you’re more likely to be using it in your own backyard rather than at a ball park. As such, the Pro Real is more likely to be used by beginners still learning the ropes of the game rather than Little Leaguers or other more professional players. Nevertheless, it is still a more than decent choice, providing ample durability and consistency of pitching.
#4 – Jugs Small-Ball Pitching Machine: Also Great
The Small-Ball Pitching Machine from JUGS is a lightweight and portable pitching machine designed for anyone above 5 and all the way to the adult age groups. It is one of the more unique machines out in the market currently thanks to its feature of being able to only pitch small balls – balls that are only half the size of a standard size baseball.
Training with balls half the usual size, at just around 5 inches, is aimed at developing batters’ concentration skills as well as hand-eye co-ordination and depth perception, thus making it an extremely useful piece of machinery helping beginners get their fundamentals right while also helping more experienced players fine-tune their hitting.
The machine comes with an adjustable tripod base, and is pretty lightweight at around 23 pounds, making it easy to be set up either in your backyard or at any ball park. It needs to be plugged into a electrical socket to operate, but you can also buy batteries at an additional cost to give you more flexibility.
The Small-Ball machine can throw both fastballs and curveballs at up to 75mph and you can adjust the speed manually. It is designed only for pitching, however, and cannot be used for practicing fielding drills. Jugs has a top reputation for making high quality equipment and so their prices tend to be a little on the higher side. In my opinion, it is definitely worth the investment if you’re looking to improve your hitting skills.
#5 – Franklin Sports MLB Super Star Batter and Fielder Multi-Function 4 in 1 Pitching Machine: Also Great
The Franklin Sports MLB Super Star Batter and Fielder is a more advanced version of the company’s Electronic Pitching Machine featured above. The Multi-Function 4 in 1 is a much more all-round product designed to help players with not just their hitting skills, but also their fielding skills as well.
Like the Electronic Pitching Machine, the 4 in 1 also targets beginners in a similar age group, ranging between 5-15 years of age, and is designed to help them improve the timing of their hits.
The 4 in 1 features a tripod base design and has a very nifty feature in that it can throw pitches in two different ways – soft and fast pitches – while also being able to throw grounders and pop-ups for fielders, which, in my opinion, presents a good all-round challenge to beginners as they build up their game. The pitching angles can also be tweaked as per the necessity of the batters or fielders.
The machine is once again designed to only be used with the company’s own Aero-Strike plastic balls. It can hold up to 9 balls at a time, which does become
From my experience with the Franklin Super Star, the machine seems to be best suited for beginners who are still trying to get a feel for the game, rather than more experienced kids who might already be playing in league games. However, at its current price point of under $50, it still is a great choice for kids who are just beginning to learn the game.
#6 – Franklin MLB Sports Electronic Pitching Machine: Great for Beginners
The MLB approved Franklin Electronic Pitching Machine is a pitching machine suitable mainly for beginners between 6-12 years of age. It is an extremely portable machine, operating by using 4D batteries, and it is also height-adjustable, features which are extremely useful considering the target age group.
The Franklin is designed mainly to help young players improve their hand-eye co-ordination, one of the very basic skills that any youngster aspiring to do well in baseball ought to possess. Along with the height adjustment, the machine can also be tweaked to pitch in a variety of angles, which should help hitters get useful reps against different kinds of pitches early on and prepare them well for game-time situations.
The Franklin also features a red LED indicator that acts as a warning sign before each ball is pitched by the machine, which I personally feel is a pretty useful tool for beginners as they work on their hand-eye co-ordination. The pitches can measure up to 35-40 mph, which is a pretty good speed for youngsters to handle.
One of the weaknesses of the Franklin however is that it can only be used to pitch the company’s own Aero-Strike plastic balls, six of which come along with the machine itself when you first buy it. Although pretty durable, these balls do have a tendency to break upon longer periods of usage. The pitching angles are also pretty inconsistent, and will need some getting used to, but considering the product’s great price point of around $35, it makes for a good choice nevertheless.
PITCHING MACHINES: A BUYER’S GUIDE
When looking for a pitching machine to help you out at practice, there are some important factors you need to consider.
If you’re still a backyard player learning the ropes of the game, the Lite-Flite is going to be extremely unnecessary. Similarly, a more advanced player who already knows his basics but needs to polish his hitting and fielding skills, could certainly use one of these.
One or Two Wheels
Pitching machines usually feature one or two wheels depending on the target age group. They are important in determining the speed and accuracy of pitches. Single wheel machines are suitable for kids and teenagers in the 6-15 age group, capable of pitches up to 60mph, which is more than enough for players in this age range. Dual wheel machines offer much faster speeds and degree of accuracy and are also capable of wider range of pitches, which come in handy for more experienced hitters.
Leather or non Leather
Not all pitching machines use regulation leather baseballs, with some companies preferring to bundle their own proprietary balls which may be easier for younger players to face instead of the harder regulation baseballs. So again, make sure to choose as per your requirements.
The Pitching Speed
Pitching types and speeds are also important things to consider. Backyard players just learning the game may find it difficult to face balls up to even 45mph or more. At the same time, you wouldn’t want to be pitching them curveballs or sliders. But this would be a definite requirement for more advanced players. Some machines can also throw left handed or right handed pitches, which is great for training if you have a weakness to either type of pitchers. So it is important to choose carefully considering your own level of expertise and your training plan, so that you can get the best out of whichever machine you end up buying.
Is it Portable?
Another important consideration while buying a pitching machine has to be the flexibility and portability. While some players are more comfortable practicing indoors or in their own backyard, others prefer having a pitching machine which is easy enough to take to their practice fields.
Also, the more advanced pitching machines, capable of throwing different kinds of pitches or usable for fielding drills, often feature up to three wheels and a complex design which doesn’t really make them very easy to carry around. They may also run only on electrical power as well. At the same time, the simpler single wheeled ones have limited capabilities, so you may be better served picking one with a two-wheel design which is neither too basic nor too complex.
Pitching machines that can also help with fielding drills may affect portability but can come in real handy, simulating live game fielding situations, helping you develop your all-round game. From my experience, using pitching machines for fielding drills is more than just a marketing gimmick. They can be real handy in simulating pop-ups, fly balls and grounders which your coach is unlikely to be able to recreate. And with pitching machines capable of being remotely operated as well, you don’t even need to depend on a coach to keep throwing you endless balls to catch.
Finally, the brand you choose is equally important in your decision. Brands like JUGS, Louisville Slugger, etc. have a high reputation developed over the years. These brands can not only give you a high quality product, but can also provide great after-sales services. Many users I have talked to have often commented on how easy it was for them to get a replacement or refund from the likes of Franklin, JUGS or Louisville if their machines had problems with the wheel or the feeder, etc. Not all brands are easy to deal with in such instances, so make sure to choose the right brand. Bigger brands can also have a wider support network and so, spares are easier to get compared to smaller ones. So do keep all this in mind when picking a suitable machine.
THE BEST OF THE BEST PITCHING MACHINES OF 2018
When writing up this guide, I made sure to pick some of the best 2018 pitching machines out there you could get your hands on – Franklin’s Sports Electronic Piching Machine and the Super Star 4 in 1, the Blue Flame from Louisville Slugger, the Lite-Flite and the Small-Ball pitching machine from JUGS and the PowerAlley Pro from Heater.
Hence, I was looking at a machine that gave you the best value for money, while at the same time being of extremely high quality in whatever they did. And it was for this reason that my winner of this list of top pitching machines would be the automatic Lite-Flite from JUGS.
Although quite pricey, the Lite-Flite is well-worth the investment. It is suitable for both beginners as well as more experienced players, as it comes with an array of settings for you to customize as per your requirements. It is automatic and operated by both electrical power as well as a battery pack, so you can choose to play indoors or at your local ball park. It can throw all kinds of pitches and can also be used for fielding drills, which means it ticks all the boxes for me personally in a pitching machine.
The only minor drawback is that you have to use the company’s own range of balls with the machine, but these have also been very durable and high quality, which means it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to make the transition to regulation baseballs and softballs. Their after-sales service has always been hassle-free for me, and that was also an additional factor in my decision to choose the Lite-Flite.