The baseball pitching machine really is a cool invention. It takes the pressure off a pitcher (both physical pressure to keep throwing so repetitively, and the pressure of time commitment), while still allowing batters to get in as much practice as they like, either alone, trading off with fellow players, or for younger batters, under the supervision of a parent.
The batting machine was invented in 1897 by a math professor at Princeton University to help the Princeton baseball team practice more effectively. That first model may have caused some injuries to players and was actually powered by gun powder.
In terms of what a baseball pitching machine can do, it really runs the gamut from simple to advanced (and generally what determines those capabilities is how much you’re willing to pay for the machine). The most advanced modern machines can throw at various pitching speeds and can deliver a range of different pitch styles. These include (but aren’t necessarily limited to) fastball, slider, and curveball.
Most pitching machines are designed in one of two ways. They may have two or three wheels inside that spin quickly, catching the inserted ball and swiftly propelling it toward the batter. They may have a fast-releasing lever-style delivery, which simulates a pitcher’s overhand throw. And more base models, like for younger players, may propel the ball with the pressure of air.
Baseball pitching machines are available in two loading styles: automatic and manual. An automatic loading machine is filled with balls at the beginning of the hitting session and has a delay between each ball, so it pitches only at a pre-set rate (usually 6-10 seconds apart). A manual loading machine, when turned on and ready to pitch, will deliver a ball only when it is dropped into the machine by a person standing next to it.
As mentioned above, how much you pay for a baseball pitching machine really depends on how much you want it to do. The most basic machines, like those used by kids just learning to play the game, can cost a few hundred dollars. More advanced machines that perform more functions and are capable of more sophisticated operation can cost several thousand dollars.
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Want A Baseball Pitching Machine? How To Pick The Right One For You
The baseball pitching machine is a great way to get batting practice on your own and without wearing out a pitcher’s arm. The machine was actually invented at the very end of the 19th century, in 1897, by a math professor at Princeton. Of course, that first machine was pretty basic compared to what’s on the market today. If you’re thinking of buying a machine, you’ll have a lot to choose some. Here are some of the aspects you should weigh, so you know what you’re looking for before from the start:
Baseball or softball? Some baseball pitching machines also double as softball machines (or even for hockey training if you are a goalie), with the capacity to pitch balls of both sizes and weights. You can buy machines that are exclusive to each sport, but if you or someone in your family plays the other, it might be a good idea to get a machine that does both.
Mechanical style: Pitching machines come in a couple of different styles, on a mechanical level. Some shoot the ball out of the hole using the force of swift, concentrated air. More powerful baseball pitching machines use two or three wheels that grip the ball and shoot it out of the machine. Still, others use a sort of catapult style lever that simulates a pitcher’s overhand throw.
Pitch capability: If you’re buying for a beginner or little league player, you probably don’t need a machine that throws different pitch styles; young batters are just working on making solid contact with the ball at all (and young pitchers aren’t that sophisticated anyway). For more advanced players, look for a machine that can throw a variety of pitches: fastball, curveball, slider, etc., and at different speeds.
Loading style: Some machines, when turned on, are set running continually, and someone stands next to the machine, drops the ball in or hits a button when it’s time to pitch, and the machine pitches the ball. Others are set to automatically pitch a ball every certain number of seconds. The loading style you choose depends on whether you plan to use your baseball pitching machine alone or with someone else there.
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Baseball Pitching Machine And Safety: What You Need To Know
Automatic baseball pitching machines are really an excellent invention for today’s batters. However, any time you play a sport, there are risks you need to know about and precautions you need to take in order to keep yourself and those around you as safe as possible.
This is especially true around a baseball pitching machine. These machines often deliver balls at fast speeds. Unlike a live person, they cannot respond to what is going on; they simply keep doing what they are designed to do. Especially in the case of a pitching machine set to automatically propel a ball every 5-6 seconds until it is shut off, safety is especially important. If you get hit by a ball, or if you look away at a distraction, the machine does not know and will shoot another ball at you anyway.
That said, following a few simple guidelines can make huge strides in terms of the safe use of this very beneficial practice machine. Here are some rules of safety for baseball pitching machines.
- Always wear a helmet. Just as you would never walk up to home plate in a game of baseball without a helmet, don’t use your pitching machine without one either. Any time a baseball is being thrown at pitching speed (even a slow pitch), protecting your head is the most important thing—more important than hitting the ball! The helmet rule is #1 and applies to both adults and children alike.
- Read the instructions. This is true with most products you buy, but applies especially in the case of a baseball pitching machine, due to the nature of its purpose. Make sure you know how to load the machine, how to maintain it, and how to turn it off. Also, heed any instructions regarding unsafe use of the machine. For example, many machines are dangerous if used with a baseball that is wet. Read the instructions so you know what to do, and what not to do, before you even turn it on.
- Be prepared. This is also true in a variety of situations, but you need to know what to do if something goes wrong and someone is struck with a ball in the head, or otherwise injured.
- Keeping a first aid kit, ice pack, and cell phone nearby will make you much better equipped to respond effectively if something unexpected happens.
How To Choose A Baseball Pitching Machine
If you are in the market for a baseball pitching machine, it is important to do your homework before you actually go out and spend money. Because pitching machines can cost anywhere between several hundred dollars and several thousand dollars, it is a good idea to know what you are looking for, so that you get what you need without paying for something that gives you more than you will actually use.
One of the first things you’ll need to look at is who will be using the machine. If this is something you’re buying so that your son or daughter can get some practice for their little league team, you will probably be looking at a much simpler and more entry-level model than would a serious high school athlete practicing for their championship-bound varsity team. Professional grade baseball pitching machines are even more high end (and expensive), and probably are much more than any individual would need on their own.
So, a basic machine that is good for younger players (say 12 and under, as a rule of thumb) will not have as many functions and features as a more sophisticated machine. The more sophisticated pitching machines throw not at just different speeds, but deliver different types of pitches as well. For example, a basic machine would throw relatively straight, a straight pitch, whereas the more advanced (and expensive) models will be able to throw curve balls, knuckle balls, sliders, etc.
Then you’ll need to decide which operational style of baseball pitching machine you want. Your basic choices are air powered, wheel, and arm style. An air powered machine is quite common for the more basic models. A wheel style uses one, two, or three wheels that spin inside the machine, catching the ball and shooting it out toward the batter. And an arm style pitching machine launches the ball from the end of a lever, simulating the actual overhand throw that a real pitcher would deliver.
You can also choose between manual feed (someone drops the balls in) or automatic feed (balls are delivered every 5-6 seconds automatically), and between stationary or portable baseball pitching machines. Ultimately, what you buy should be determined based on how (and how often) you plant to use it and how much you can spend on the machine.
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The History of the Baseball Pitching Machine
Today, every major league baseball team, virtually every college baseball team, and many high school teams own a baseball pitching machine. And while the sport of baseball goes back a very long time, the pitching machine wasn’t always around to help with batting practice. At the same time, it’s not exactly a new invention either.
The pitching machine was invented in 1897, a few years before the turn of the century. Credit for the device is given to a Mr. Charles Howard Hinton, a science fiction author and professor of mathematics at Princeton University. Hinton developed the machine, the original model of which was actually powered by gunpowder, to help the Princeton baseball team practice. That first model was dangerous though and may have caused some injuries to players on the team. Fortunately, the technology has gotten much better over the past one hundred plus years. Modern pitching machines don’t run on gunpowder, and when used carefully, they are far safer, as well.
What that first baseball pitching machine did share with modern machines was that it was incredibly versatile. As a mathematician, Hinton was more than a simple tinkerer. He designed the pitching machine to propel balls at speeds and distances similar to those that would be thrown by a pitcher. The particularly innovative feature of Hinton’s machine, which is shared by today’s mechanical pitchers, was that it was capable of throwing at various speeds, not just one.
That speed adjustment is what makes the baseball pitching machine such an advantage to modern players (and even players who used that first machine, except the ones who were injured, of course). In a real game of baseball, the pitcher will throw a variety of pitches, at different speeds and with different releases that cause the ball to behave in a variety of ways over its trajectory from mound to plate.
By throwing out balls at various speeds, the baseball pitching machine allows batters to practice responding to a variety of pitches, much like they will need to do in an actual game. Yet it does so without requiring an actual person to throw the ball. This makes it easier for batters to get in more practice without wearing down the arm of an actual pitcher.