When you start to evaluate how much you want to invest in a pitching machine, there is a lot to consider. You need to make sure you get the right machine for your needs in order to maximize the usage of it. The cost is driven by the features the machine has and also the durability of the machine. You need to make sure the pitching machine fits your needs and you also need to take into consideration how long do you think you will be using it.
In deciding which features you want on your pitching machine it is important to consider the age of the child or children that are going to use the machine and the location you will be using the machine. As kids start to get older they will see more advanced pitches and having a pitching machine that can throw these pitches can be a great benefit. Getting a lot of repetition on a pitching machine on the advanced pitches can be a great benefit to a young hitter learning to hit breaking balls
What do the features on the machine add to the cost?
It is very important you decide what features you want on a pitching machine before you select it. You have to consider what types of pitches it needs to throw, how fast it needs to throw, and how to control the speed / pitch type. Once this has been determined, you can consider additional features and accessories that will also impact the price of the machine.
A single wheel pitching machine will throw fastballs only, and come in a variety of top end speeds (depending on the brand and model). You can purchase a high quality fastball machine that pitches real baseballs at speeds up to 70MPH and comes with a good 5 year warranty for less than $650. With a top end speed of 70MPH, this machine will grow with your players through the ages of 14 or 15 years old and makes a great machine to coach on during their early developmental years. If you need more speed, you will pay more, but the machine will have a longer useful life as your player develops. Fastball pitching machines range in price from around $650 up to more than $1,500.
If you need a machine that will throw curveballs in addition to fastballs, the price of the machine jumps up to between $1, 500 and $2,500. That is quite a bit more than a single wheel fastball machine, but as your player advances through high school and into college, they will be seeing a lot of different pitches … and to many coaches and parents, the investment in a two wheel pitching machine is essential.
Additionally, the control box and how you set / determine the pitch type can add between $100 and $500 to either a fastball or a breaking ball machine. Machines with simple variable speed potentiometers (dials with numbers on them that helps you determine the speed that the wheel spins) are the most affordable options, but give you the least amount of control of the machine. Proprietary control systems like the JUGS Dial-A-Pitch offer more precise control of the pitch speed and type, but can cost a few hundred dollars more than the entry-level machines. Dial-a-pitch, micro adjustments, and machines that can program an entire sequence of pitches are the most effective machines as they simulate most accurately live pitching. Programmable machines are also available, but can be cost prohibitive to small teams and youth programs. This feature can be very important for a college program or if the machine is going to be used by numerous coaches (versus only a few individuals), however this feature comes at a premium cost.
Additional features such as the ability to swivel the machine 360 degrees and a vertical pivot for fielding drills, as well as combo baseball /softball machines can and will play into the price. Location of where you are going to use the machine is important as not all of the features can be used if the machine is going to be used in a batting cage. A machine that has vertical pivot for defensive drills (fly balls and ground balls) will not be useful in a batting cage. There would be no need to spend the additional money for this feature if it is solely going to be used in a batting cage, but the addition of these features impact the cost far less than the “big three” factors of Pitch Type, Pitch Speed, & Pitch Control.
Question 2: How long do I want this machine to last?
This seems like a silly question to ask as most people would say I want the most durable machine that is available. However it has as much to do with “lifetime value” as it does with durability. Most respectable machines over $500 come with extended warranties (typically 3-5 years) and are built to last. For older players (teenagers and above) the warranty is critical, as the play is more aggressive and they are going put plenty of wear and tear on them.
When determining the “lifetime value” of a machine, you just need to do some simple math. How long will the player or team use the machine before they out grow it?
Here are a couple of examples:
If you buy a $650 FirstPitch Baseline fastball pitching machine for your 12 year-old player, he may only get one to two years of use out of the machine before he advances past its capabilities. At 13 or 14 he will need to start practicing for faster pitches and a wider variety of pitches. At $650 over two years, it represents $325 a year of use.
It if you were to spend an additional $175 to upgrade to a Firstpitch Original fastball pitching machine, you would still be getting a “fastball only” single wheeled pitching machine…however that extra $175 buys you an extra 10MPH and another year of development. If this machine would last your player 3 years instead of two, it would represent $275 a year value as opposed to the $325 value of the lower end machine.
Let’s extend that logic to a higher end machine that will be with your player through high school and into college. If you were to invest over $1,500 on a high end Curveball Pitching Machine From FirstPitch that pitches breaking balls as well as fastballs at speeds over 100 MPH, this machine could conceivably be used by your player for 6 to 7 years. At 6 years (and a $1,500 initial investment), it would represent the best value yet at $250 a year of use.
It all depends how much you want to invest, and for how long the machine will be in service. Upgrading the machine every few years as your player develops is certainly an option, however will be more expensive in the long run.
However if the pitching machine is for a child sometimes it is better to purchase a lower end (less durable) machine and save the money until you know the commitment level of the child. If the child is just beginning in baseball or softball it may be best to purchase a less expensive (and durable) machine to try out to make sure the commitment level is there. They are still very good for working on mechanics and throwing batting practice, however they tend to not last as long as they are not built as solid. This can be a better decision if the child decides not to pursue the sport long term. Additionally if you save considerable money on the lower level machine and the child decides to pursue the sport you can always upgrade to a more durable machine down the road. These machines can cost as little as $200 and can as much as $500… however if you are considering a $500 machine, it might be time to evaluate spending an extra $150 to get into a single wheel fastball machine that will represent a stronger life time value due to its versatility and expected longevity.
There a quite a few different types of pitching machines and brands out there, it can be an overwhelming decision to make. Like any other major purchase you are making you should go in with a budget dollar amount in mind. Most websites have ways to filter pitching machines by price range, once you done that in your budget range you need to review in detail the machines to make sure they have the functionality you need. You don’t want to overspend to get features you won’t use, however you need to consider buying a pitching as an investment and you need to spend enough money to make sure you will get maximum usage out of it.