1. What age is my child and how serious is my child about baseball/softball?
2. What am I trying to accomplish with the pitching machine?
3. How important is mobility and location usage of the pitching machine?
4. Is a combination-pitching machine important?
If you have a younger child the needs for a pitching machine are much different than an older child. Younger children don’t need to have near the velocity an older player would need and with a younger player there is no need for the machine to have the ability to throw breaking balls. Now if you have a younger child and they are pretty serious about baseball/softball, you might consider “buying up” on a machine so it will fit your needs for a longer period of time. My answer to people when they ask what machine they should get for a younger player (under the age of 10) I always tell them to go with a single wheel machine. I do this because a two-wheel machine is a big investment and a lot of things can happen as the child grows as far as their interest in baseball/softball. Pitching machines hold their value pretty well and so a single wheel can be sold later and this money used to purchase a two-wheel machine if it is needed later.
Before you purchase a pitching machine you need to ask what you are trying to accomplish with the machine. Are you trying to work on breaking balls, are you just trying to get repetitions to complement tee work, are you buying it to focus on defensive drills, does my child need to face pitching at higher speeds than I can throw to them? The answers to these questions will go a long way in determining what type of machine you need. If you want to work on hitting breaking balls a two- wheel machine will be required. If you are only trying to complement tee work a single wheel machine is fine, which will help to keep your cost down. Most of the machines can be set to do defensive drills, so no need to spend a lot of money for a machine for just that purpose. Machines that throw at top speeds are typically two-wheel machines, so again the cost will climb.
Mobility of the pitching machine is also another item to be considered. If you are going to move the machine from a cage to the field you will want one that can be easily transported by rolling it on the wheels. If you want a machine that can be used at a place with no electricity there are machines that come with built in batteries or machines that don’t require power at all. There is also the option of purchasing a generator for use in places with no electricity, however generators are very expensive. If none of the above is a requirement, a arm style machine can be purchased and just left stationary. Most pitching machines are not really mobile in my opinion, so if this is important a lot of research should be done on this.
If you have both baseball and softball players you should strongly consider purchasing combination baseball and softball pitching machines. This will take your price up, however it is much cheaper than purchasing two machines! The investment of purchasing a little more in a machine to get a combination machine is well worth the money if you have both a boy and girl player. They have now made the machines so they are very quick and easy to convert from baseball to softball or vice-versa. It is usually a quick change of the chute and wheel adjustment. It can be done usually in a few minutes.
Purchasing a pitching machine is a big investment and it should be treated as an investment. Quality pitching machines will last several years, as a matter of fact I recently saw a machine the gentlemen told me was 15 years old and it ran like new! As in any investment you need to take the time to understand what exactly you need so you don’t waste money not getting enough machine or getting too much machine.