When it comes to choosing the best pitching machine, there are a lot of choices but really only a one could be classified as "the best" - the Rawlings Pro Line 3 pitching machine. Of course, many people don't have unlimited budgets and $3,000+ pitching machines are out of the question. What most people really want to know when they ask "what is the best pitching machine?" is "which pitching machine should I buy?" or, more to the point, "what is the best pitching machine for my family and budget?"
We have been very careful about selecting which pitching machine manufacturers we carry in our store. Each one has been selected because it brings something a little different to the table. This eliminates some of the confusion and redundancy that you see on websites that carry every pitching machine under the sun.
Before you can decide what the best pitching machine is for your particular situation, you really need to figure out what the most important factors are to you. Ultimately, your decision needs to be based upon many different factors - money, of course, being one of them.
How Long Will The Pitching Machine Last?
The number of years you can reasonably expect a pitching machine to last is really one of the most important factors of all, yet it is something that very few people consider. The easiest way of determining how long a pitching machine may last, is to look at the pitching machine's warranty. Manufacturers aren't going to give a 5 year warranty on a product that won't last at least that long!
If your child is very young and just starting to play ball, you may not know for sure if they will continue playing the game in coming years. It might be a wise idea to hold off on a more durable and expensive pitching machine for now and, instead, get one of the Heater Sports backyard pitching machines. In fact, if they are very young, your best bet would be to go with a lite ball pitching machine, which helps them develop their timing and alleviate their fear of getting hit with a ball.
Another option for parents who have younger players that definitely show interest in the sport is to go with a Zooka pitching machine. Although they only have one year warranties, we know plenty of people who have been using those machines for more than five years with no reported problems. It only makes sense; there are so few moving parts to Zooka pitching machines.
If they are older and have been playing for a few years, it's pretty much a sure thing that they will be playing for quite a few more years. In that case, selecting a pitching machine that's well made and has a five year warranty like most First Pitch, JUGS, Rawlings/Spinball or
Although the Louisville Slugger pitching machines don't have a very long warranty, that is due to the fact that the springs on their machines wear out. Replacement springs are only about 20 bucks, though, and are super simple to switch out.
You also need to consider how often the pitching machine will be used. Will there be multiple people using it? Will it be used for team batting practice? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, you'll get far better wear from the Zooka, First Pitch, JUGS, Rawlings/Spinball and BATA machines.
Also important to note, JUGS, Rawlings/Spinball and First Pitch pitching machines DO NOT place warranty restrictions on team use, meaning a baseball or softball team gets the same warranty as an individual - something many other pitching machine manufacturers don't offer.
Do You Need A Baseball Pitching Machine, Softball Pitching Machine Or Both?
Who are the ball players in the family, both at this moment and in the future? If there are both baseball and softball players, you'll definitely need to get a combination baseball and softball pitching machine.
The family next door has a 13 year old boy who plays baseball, a 16 year old girl who plays fastpitch softball and a dad who plays in hardball and slow pitch softball leagues. They also have a six year old boy who is already swinging a bat at lite balls and looks like the next Babe Ruth!
They have a First Pitch Curveball Pitching Machine. Although it is not exactly a cheap machine, it is built to last, has reversible legs for both softball and baseball and throws every kind of pitch imaginable - slow pitch softball, fast pitch softball and baseballs up to 105 MPH. It's probably the best machine made for fielding practice, too, and can throw real balls, dimple balls and even lite balls. Because it is a two wheel machine, it can throw any pitch a major leaguer can - fastballs, curves, sliders, screwballs and even knuckleballs.
If a machine that can throw every pitch imaginable and can throw either baseballs or softballs is in your game plan, ANY of the Rawlings/Spinball Sports machine will do the trick and are what we consider to be the best value. The Spinball Wizard, Rawlings Pro Line 2 Wheel and Rawlings Pro Line 3 Wheel pitching machines are all top of the class!
For folks who don't need a curveball pitching machine but want a combination baseball/softball pitching machine that is great for defensive drills AND hitting, the best one on the market is the First Pitch Ace pitching machine. It can throw overhand and underhand as well as put backspin or topspin on a ball. Having backspin on fly balls and topspin on grounders means far more realistic fielding drills. It also means that you can easily throw sinking or rising fastballs.
How Fast Is The Pitching Machine (and how much does it matter)?
One of the things everybody wants to know is how fast a pitching machine will throw balls. Although this is certainly an important consideration if the machine is going to be set up at regulation distance, it becomes far less of a consideration if you are using the pitching machine in a 20 or 24 foot home batting cage.
For instance, a machine with a top speed of 50 MPH may seem too slow for a high school player, which is true when pitching from the regulation distance of 60 feet, 6 inches. When you are much closer to the pitching machine, the ball gets to you much faster, though. In a 24 foot batting cage, that 50 MPH fastball causes you to react much quicker and seems like a 126 MPH fastball - faster than any pitcher at any level can throw!
To compute the "seems like" speed, take the regulation distance, divide it by the shorter distance the machine will really be from the back of the "plate," and multiply by the speed.
If you will definitely be using your pitching machine from regulation distance, speed is a super-important consideration. Otherwise, not so much!
Does the Pitching Machine Need to be Portable?
Sometimes, you may want to use a pitching machine in an area where there is no electrical outlet. If so, you are going to need to purchase a 120V generator at your local hardware store in order to power most pitching machines.
Some pitching machines are extremely heavy, too. BATA, JUGS and First Pitch pitching machines weigh anywhere from 65 to 115 pounds. You can add a wheel kit (found in the
If a top of the line multi-wheel pitching machine is what you want but you don't want something ridiculously heavy, the Rawlings/Spinball Sports pitching machines are about half the weight of competitors' machines due to the aerospace-grade alloys they use in their machines, so no extra wheel kit is necessary. Because it has a third wheel and motor, naturally making it heavier, their top of the line Rawlings Pro Line 3 wheel pitching machine has a wheel kit included as part of the frame. Even with that third wheel and motor, it's still no heavier than other companies' two wheel pitching machines, however.
Zooka pitching machines run on an internal rechargeable battery that can throw 500-800 pitches before needing a recharge and are less than 30 pounds. They are probably the best option for people who want a super portable pitching machine. No cords or generators to deal with at all!
None of the Louisville Slugger pitching machines require any electricity at all - not even a battery. They use high tension springs to launch the balls. Therefore, you can literally set them up in under a minute - anywhere! Their baseball pitching machines also weigh considerably less than motorized pitching machines, weighing from 12-25 pounds. If portability is your #1 concern, the Louisville Slugger machines may be your best bet!
Do You Want A Pitching Machine That Can Be Used Solo?
A very important question you need to ask yourself is whether or not there will always be someone around to feed balls into the pitching machine one at a time. If not, it'll be impossible to practice your hitting or fielding drills.
In order to practice solo, a pitching machine HAS TO have an auto ball feeder. Some of the Heater pitching machines include a free auto ball feeder and if not, they can be added to a machine for about $50.00. The BATA, JUGS, Rawlings/Spinball and First Pitch pitching machines DO NOT come with auto ball feeders; although, they can certainly be purchased and added to their machines if you don't mind investing an extra $315-$550. In between, is Zooka. Their autofeeders run less than $260 (including shipping) and hold more balls than most feeders.
Whether or not it is worth paying extra for a ball feeder in order to practice alone comes down to whether you want a higher quality, longer lasting pitching machine or just one that you can only expect to get a few years use out of. Many parents purchase a pitching machine initially and add the auto ball feeder later - sometimes as a birthday gift!
Do You Need A Curveball Pitching Machine?
As kids get older, they are going to start facing pitchers who throw curves. As they advance even further, pitchers will be throwing curves, sliders, screwballs and maybe even knucklers. Having a pitching machine that you can practice hitting curves with is very important when you get up to the higher levels.
What kind of curves, though? When ball players progress to the point that they need to practice hitting curves, the pitchers they are facing are typically throwing more than just a straight curve. Pitching machines that only have one wheel use a "stop plate" and can only throw basic curves - usually side curves only, from the left or the right. These are always the cheapest curveball pitching machines because they only have one motor. Examples of one wheel style pitching machines that can only throw a straight curve are the
In order to throw anything a real pitcher can throw, your pitching machine needs to have two variable speed wheels. By changing the speed of one wheel relative to the other, you can pitch screwballs, sliders, curveballs, fastballs and even knuckle balls. If it has a pivoting head that can be easily tilted like the First Pitch Curveball Pitching Machine, Spinball Wizard Pitching Machine or JUGS Curveball Pitching Machine does, you can even mix in 3/4 or overhand curves. If you are on a tight budget, Heater Sports has recently added the Heater Deuce Two Wheel Curveball Pitching Machine to its lineup. It's about half the price of the next cheapest two wheel machine on the market. Just keep in mind that it only has a one year warranty and can only throw baseballs. It does come with an automatic ball feeder, though.
Something that few people ever consider is how a pitching machine that throws curveballs can be used for fielding practice. Catchers can certainly benefit by learning how to catch and block curves that frequently become wild pitches. Infielders can benefit by practicing grounders from a curveball pitching machine, too. Any infielder can tell you that the spin on a one hopper is very different coming off the bat of a left handed hitter than it is from a right hand hitter. Setting up a pitching machine to throw grounders with a side spin can really take a player's defensive skills up a notch!
How Much Does The Pitching Machine Cost?
Finally, I'll get to the one question that is often the only one that people ask - "how much does it cost?" As you can see from the above, you can't let price, alone, dictate which pitching machine you should buy.
Obviously, most people have limited budgets and often need to sacrifice some of their "wants" for more realistic "needs." Decide which of the above factors are the most important and buy the most affordable machine that meets all or most of those needs. With most people, durability tops their list.
In our opinion, the best pitching machines for the money are as follows:
- Best Pitching Machine Value Under $500: In this category, it all comes down to whether an automatic ball feeder is essential. If you MUST have a ball feeder, the best value is the Heater Real Baseball Pitching Machine. If you want to work with your child and a ball feeder is not important, the best value is the First Pitch Relief Pitcher - especially if you want a machine that can throw baseballs AND softballs. Please keep in mind that any real ball pitching machine in this price range can only throw fastballs and changeups.
- Best Pitching Machine Value Under $1,000: With a top speed of 70 MPH and a 5 year warranty, the best pitching machine value under $1,000 is clearly the First Pitch Baseline pitching machine, which is only $699. If you need something faster, you can either move the pitching machine a little closer or pay an extra $200 for another First Pitch machine - the
First Pitch Original pitching machine, which throws 80 MPH.
- Best Pitching Machine Value Under $2,000: This one is a little bit tougher choice because there are two pitching machines that may be the perfect choice, depending on how you plan to use your pitching machine. Because it is covered by an outstanding 5 year warranty and the fact that at only $1,599, it is not only less expensive than practically all of its counterparts, but it is significantly lighter too, the Spinball Wizard is clearly the best pitching machine priced at under $2,000 for practicing your hitting. If you are planning on taking your pitching machine to the field and using it for defensive drills, too, there is no better defensive drills pitching machine made than the Rawlings Pro Line 2 wheel pitching machine. It has handlebars that literally let you steer the machine to shoot balls at any player in the infield and outfield, throwing grounders, towering fly balls or pop-ups. Priced at $1,999, it also has an industry-leading 5 year warranty. As far as hitting goes, both the Rawlings Pro Line 2 and the Spinball Wizard can throw any type of pitch imaginable at up to 100 MPH. Either machine can be ordered as baseball-only, softball-only or combination baseball-softball and both are available in ARP leg configurations which allow you to adjust the pitch release point height.
- Best Pitching Machine at Any Price: This is really a tie between two pitching machines manufactured by the same company - the Rawlings Pro Line 3 Wheel Pitching Machine and the Spinball Wizard 3 Wheel Pitching Machine. The difference between the two machines really comes down to whether you prefer to push buttons or turn knobs. With the push of a couple of buttons, you can change the pitch type, amount of spin and speed with a Rawlings 3 Wheel Pitching Machine and have the hitter guessing on every pitch. That, and the fact that three wheel pitching machines are more accurate than two wheel machines makes the Rawlings Pro Line 3 Wheel Pitching Machine the best pitching machine at any price sold on this website. It even comes with built-in transport wheels, which makes rolling the pitching machine onto the field much easier. Of course, if you'd like to get an almost identical pitching machine to the Rawlings 3 Wheel and save a little money, the next best bet is the Spinball Wizard 3 Wheel Pitching Machine. It is $300 less, is made by the same company and has all of the same features; its control board is analog instead of digital so you turn knobs instead of pushing buttons but that's the only real difference. In fact, many people prefer the Spinball Wizard 3 wheel machine over the Rawlings 3 wheel machine because they can turn a knob to the pitch speed they desire faster than they can cycle the speeds up and down with buttons.
Below, is our "cheat sheet" which shows the most important features for each of the pitching machines sold on this website that will throw regulation size/weight baseballs and/or softballs. The table is organized by price, from low to high. Click on the pitching machine name to visit the actual product page and see each pitching machine's full features.
NOTE: This table is best viewed from a device with a full screen browser like a desktop, laptop or tablet (in other words, not a phone).
|Pitching Machine||Machine Type||Top Speed||Warranty||Feeder Included?||Throws Curves?||Price|
|Heater PowerAlley Pro||Baseball Only||45 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$159.99|
|Heater BaseHit||Baseball Only||45 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Includes Feeder||No Curves||$199.99|
|PowerAlley 11-Inch Softball||11" Softball Only||40 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||No Feeder Available||No Curves||$199.99|
|Louisville Slugger Blue Flame||Combo Machine||45 MPH||60 Day Warranty||No Feeder Available||No Curves||$229.99|
|Louisville Slugger Black Flame||Combo Machine||50 MPH||60 Day Warranty||No Feeder Available||No Curves||$239.99|
|Heater Jr.||Baseball Only||48 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Includes Feeder||No Curves||$299.99|
|First Pitch Relief Pitcher||Combo Machine||50 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$399.00|
|Heater Real Baseball||Baseball Only||52 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$399.99|
|Heater Real Softball||Softball Only||50 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$399.99|
|Heater Pro Curve||Baseball Only||52 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||$499.99|
|Zooka ZS720||Baseball Only||50 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$588.97|
|Heater Combo||Combo Machine||60 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$599.99|
|First Pitch Baseline||Combo Machine||70 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$699.00|
|Zooka ZS740||Baseball Only||70 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$758.97|
|Heater Deuce||Baseball Only||75 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Includes Feeder||Throws Curves||$799.99|
|First Pitch Original||Combo Machine||80 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$899.00|
|BATA-1||Combo Machine||62 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||*$899.97|
|JUGS MVP||Baseball Only||52 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$998.97|
|BATA B-1||Combo Machine||70 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||*$1,028.97|
|First Pitch XL||Combo Machine||80 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||*$1,095.00|
|JUGS JR Softball||Softball Only||60 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$1,249.97|
|JUGS JR Baseball||Baseball Only||60 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$1,257.97|
|JUGS JR Combination||Combo Machine||60 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$1,284.97|
|First Pitch Ace||Combo Machine||80 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$1,295.00|
|Iron Mike C-82||Combo Machine||60 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Includes Feeder||No Curves||$1,428.97|
|JUGS Super Softball||Softball Only||70 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||No Curves||$1,498.97|
|Spinball Wizard||Combo Machine||100 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||*$1,599.00|
|First Pitch Curveball||Combo Machine||105 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||*$1,599.00|
|BATA Twin Pitch||Combo Machine||70 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||*$1,738.97|
|BATA-2||Combo Machine||100 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||*$1,758.97|
|Rawlings Pro Line 2 Wheel||Combo Machine||100 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||*$1,999.00|
|JUGS 101||Baseball Only||90 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||$2,169.97|
|JUGS Curveball||Baseball Only||104 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||$2,256.97|
|JUGS Combination||Combo Machine||104 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||$2,603.97|
|Spinball Wizard 3 Wheel||Combo Machine||100 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||$2,699.00|
|Iron Mike MP-5||Combo Machine||85 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Includes Feeder||No Curves||$2,844.97|
|Rawlings Pro Line 3 Wheel||Combo Machine||100 MPH||5 Yr. Warranty||Feeder NOT Included||Throws Curves||*$2,999.00|
|Iron Mike MP-6||Combo Machine||85 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Includes Feeder||No Curves||$3,788.97|
|Iron Mike MP-4||Combo Machine||85 MPH||1 Yr. Warranty||Includes Feeder||No Curves||$4,098.97|
* Price shown is for baseball-only or softball-only model. Combo baseball/softball machine costs extra.