See some of the most common types of pitching machines you can buy, and what you can expect for price vs. quality for youth, adults and pros.
Please keep these few things in mind:
Starting off with the classics. Both of these are traditional mechanical pitching machines with no frills. These will absolutely do the job at lower speeds, though they will require a little more time to set up and calibrate to the type of pitch you’re looking for.
The Black Flame is very similar to the Blue Flame, but it’s a little lighter and throws a little harder (45mph and 50mph, respectively). So the Black Flame costs a few bucks more, but it’s not too many bucks.
I’d recommend this one for very young kids first learning to hit – or for slowpitch softball where you just don’t need a ton of speed or precision to just fit in a few reps before a beer league game. And don’t want to deal with a pitcher who’s already thrown back a couple and can’t find the plate.
This single-wheel powered pitching machine represents a mid-tier step up from the cheaper mechanical machines that won’t completely break the bank (under $1K as of writing).
This one will get you up to 30-60mph and can be quite a standard-of-living upgrade over something like the Louisville Blue/Black Flame.
We’re not yet at the price point where we start talking autofeeders or pitch selection, but this is a great option at the youth level.
There aren’t a ton of options at this price range ($399 as of writing).
The plastic construction, while it might be less durable, is also a lot lighter and probably much easier to deal with than huffing around some of the beefier steel machines.
While you do need to use PowerNet’s proprietary F-lite balls, you can adjust for either baseball or fastpitch softball.
Here’s one from one of the best pitching machine manufacturers out there – JUGS.
This one comes with two sets of legs so you can set the best pitching height for whatever you’re practicing, including regular overhand pitching or underhanded fastpitch softball.
The single-wheel design swivels 360 degrees and allows you to launch at variable heights, so you can also use this for fielding drills, fly balls, pop-ups, grounders, etc.
That’s really the use case for this machine given its high price: this is not generally going to be used for personal use unless you’re ready to seriously splurge on your favorite kid. This is a machine designed for heavy team use in many applications.
These make the list as one of the best battery-powered cordless pitching machines you’ll find. A lot of high-quality pitching machines need to be plugged into a standard outlet or generator to work.
Those that don’t need to be plugged in typically must be manually fed. You’ll have to pay extra, but they do offer an additional autoloader which holds up to 16 baseballs or 18 tennis balls.
You can throw up to 500 pitches at the max speed of 70mph before having to charge the battery. That’s not a bad workload for a cordless machine.
That being said it’s still limited to 70mph and isn’t designed for the pros. This is a much better option at the youth level; they say it’s most suitable for 5-18 year olds.
Plus, these just plain look cool. There’s no exposed moving parts and they look like a big nerf gun.
Here’s a potential option for kids in smaller spaces or backyard in a home environment.
The JUGS Small Ball uses 5 inch, 5 ounce polyurethane balls that are about half the size of a regular baseball. So they’re not normally going to do quite as much potential damage should one go wayward.
I like the option to practice with smaller balls. Know how batters will put a weight or two on their bat in the on-deck circle so the normal bat feels light as a feather? There’s a similar effect here. Take a bunch of swings at golf balls and a normal baseball looks like a beach ball.
These are the machines you’ll usually find at commercial batting cages and more permanent baseball training facilities. When I was a kid I remember these in the batting cages at the local bowling alley/sports bar. The classic hopper-fed unit with the robotic arm release that feels a little bit like a ball actually being pitched to you.
While they do offer a few different machines, including one for youth/kids you could use in the backyard, Their flagship arm style machines are the MP-6 and MP-4 hopper-fed machines built for team use and capable of throwing up 85mph.
If you’re really looking for the best of the best, Iron Mike is the way to go. But you will absolutely pay for it. As I write this, their cheapest model, ideally used for youth training or slow pitch softball, is listed at $1,450. Their top-of-the-line MP-4 is listed at a chunky $3,985.
This isn’t the birthday gift you get your nephew because he’s starting to learn how to swing a bat. However, if you’re investing in a training facility or batting cages, Iron Mikes are as good as it gets.
Iron Mike machines are not a normal retail item. It appears they have a few authorized online dealers, including Hitting World, which is linked below—but you can also order directly from their website.
This thing is a beast.
If you’re looking for the highest-level batting practice with the highest speeds and most types of pitches, this is what you’re after. This one is built for the pros.
Does everything. Curveballs, sliders, and event splitters. Up to 100mph. The three-wheel design roughly simulate the three+ fingers a pitcher places on each side of the ball.
There are loads of features to help you create precise, repeatable pitches to get reps in a target area.
The Hack Attack is as good as it gets if you’re ready to invest in the best batting training tool you can buy.
Want the best you can get and don’t care about the cost? Break the bank on this bad boy.
This JUGS machine does everything you could possibly want, and this: it can automatically switch between fastballs and changeups. That’s something.
This is an expensive, impressive piece of machinery college and professional teams can use to hone their skills.
Here’s about as cheap as you can go. A little whiffle ball spitter you can get for a little kid who’s just learning to swing a bat.
This is handy for that tee-ball period where they’re not quite confident enough to toss the ball up for themselves, bring the hand back to the bat, and take a sure swing.
Yes, or no. Are you a dolt? If yes, no. If no, yes.
How do you plan to practice? Setting up an Iron Mike in the living room in front of the glass patio door? Then no, you are not capable of operating one of these machines safely.
If you are smart, you have nothing to worry about.
I’ve attempted to categorize the machines I’ve listed above in some areas that matter.
These are some of the lower octane models that are more realistic in a large backyard, or even garage if you’re using harmless balls.
Go nuts with a fully netted setup and you can use just about anything.
Here’s some of the cheaper options you might consider from this list, tiered by price below. All prices as of this writing and are subject to change on the other side of the click.
Keep in mind you can always try to save a buck by shopping for used or reconditioned pitching machines on eBay, Craigslist, or somewhere else.
References & notes