An Introduction to the Different Types of Pitching Machines

Training aids are needed in different sports in order for players to practice and improve their skills. In baseball, one of the most popular training aids is the pitching machine. To know more about this type of training aid and its various versions, here is an introduction to the different types of pitching machines that you can use for practice or training in baseball.

The Pitching Machine

A pitching machine is a tool or device that throws or fires baseballs in one direction. So, the pitching machine can act like a pitcher to a batter or hitter that wants to practice his or her baseball bat swinging strength and accuracy. Besides baseball, pitching machines are also used for softball, which is a similar sport to baseball but has slight alterations to the rules and the game ball. Check out our Guide to Selecting a Fastpitch Softball Bat to know more about the bats used for softball.

The Origins of the Pitching Machine

batting cages with pitching machines

It is believed that the pitching machine was first conceived by Charles Hinton, a mathematics instructor at Princeton University that designed a baseball pitching machine that is powered by gunpowder. After designing the machine, Hinton tested it with the help of Princeton’s baseball team during their batting practice in 1897.

Unfortunately, because of how powerful the blast created by the gunpowder to fire baseballs is, the pitching machine caused injuries to several players of the baseball team. The injury-causing pitching machine is said to have been one of the reasons why Hinton was dismissed from Princeton University.

However, the pitching machine is deemed by Hinton to be useful, but he just needs to decrease the firing power of the machine so that it won’t cause injuries. Besides firing fastballs or baseballs that travel at high speeds in a straight trajectory, Hinton’s improved pitching machine can also fire curve balls with the use of two-rubber coated steel fingers that are located at the pitcher’s muzzle.

Hinton would work as an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota until 1900, and the improved pitching machine was introduced to the university’s baseball team. From then on, the pitching machine would also become known to other baseball teams, and the machine would eventually become a common training aid for batting practice.

The Different Types of Pitching Machines

batting practice

Pitching machines come in different forms and sizes. Each type of pitching machine provides its own advantages compared to other types of pitching machines, so picking a specific type would depend on what advantage or benefit you will need. Here are the things that you should know more about the different types of pitching machines.

Arm Action Pitching Machine

The arm action pitching machine is designed to simulate what a pitcher would do to throw a baseball toward the hitter or batter. So, the pitching machine would have an arm-like part or bracket that throws baseballs in an overhand motion. This type of pitching machine is popular among batters that want to memorize the feel of batting against an actual pitcher, even if they are practicing with a machine.

What’s great about the arm action pitching machine is that the batter can see the arm-like bracket installed on the machine, so they will know when the arm will start throwing a baseball. Because of this mechanic, the batters will be able to practice not only their swinging strength and accuracy but also their timing.

Another advantage that arm action pitching machines have is their ability to store up to 500 baseballs. So, you don’t have to constantly reload the machine if you want to hit multiple baseballs. However, the downside to arm action pitching machines is that they can be very bulky and heavy, so moving them from one area to another can be difficult for just one person to do.

Circular Wheel Pitching Machine

circular wheel pitching machine

The circular wheel pitching machine throws or fires a baseball toward a batter with the help of a fast-moving wheel, which forces the baseball to move forward at high speed. This type of pitching machine is specifically used to improve the swinging strength and accuracy of a player, similar to what the arm action machine does. However, it is important to keep in mind that circular wheel pitching machines have three subtypes, and these are:

  • 1-Wheel Pitching Machine
  • 2-Wheel Pitching Machine
  • 3-Wheel Pitching Machine

Each of these subtypes has its own set of benefits or advantages. The 1-wheel pitching machine is great to use for fastballs, as the ball can only travel in one straight trajectory. The 2-wheel pitching is suitable for batters that want to practice hitting dynamic pitches that have different speeds and trajectories.

Then, the 3-wheel pitching machine has the best of both worlds, as it can throw fastballs while also being able to throw dynamic pitches. The drawback to the 3-wheel machine is that it is much heavier compared to the 1-wheel and 2-wheel machines, so if you want portability, you should get the two other types. But, for versatility, you should just buy the 3-wheel pitching machine. Fortunately, the 3-wheel machine isn’t as heavy or bulky as the arm action pitching machine, so you will still have an easier time transporting this machine to different areas or locations.

Programmable Pitching Machine

The most advanced type of pitching machine available today is the programmable pitching machine, which has a computer that can control the different speeds, pitches, and trajectories for the baseballs it will throw. You can control the computer through the LCD screen that is built into the pitching machine. You can set it to throw only one type of pitch, or you can create a set of different pitches. Moreover, you can also set the computer to throw different types of pitches randomly so that you can practice your reaction time with random pitches.

And these are all the things you need to know about pitching machines and the different types that you can buy online or in sports equipment stores. Be sure to check reviews on various models of pitching machines so that you can get the best and most suitable one for you.