Pitching Machine Versatility
by: Carl Fogle
While pitching machines are most often thought of as tools to aid in batting practice, there are other situations in which
the right pitching machine can be an invaluable tool for the results-oriented coach or manager. Many modern pitching machines
can be set to throw groundballs and fly balls which can be a great help in many situations — two of which we discuss
From little league to high school ball, tryouts are a necessary but sometimes overwhelming process where literally hundreds
of hopefuls must be evaluated in seconds apiece. Most tryouts are set up in stages — a groundball stage, a fly ball
stage, a batting stage, and a pitching stage — where characteristics such as arm strength, running speed, agility, fundamentals,
and power are judged. How best to judge all of these elements quickly and accurately? Consistency.
As any coach who has tried to hit hundreds of fly balls or grounders with a fungo can tell you, consistency is not something
easily achieved by a person. That’s where a pitching machine like the Jugs Lite-Flite or Jugs Combo Machine comes in.
By setting up a pitching machine like these two at each of our hypothetical testing stages, each individual can be consistently
judged by the same set of criteria as everyone else. Let’s take the groundball stage as an example. By setting the Jugs
Combo Machine to throw grounders instead of pitches (a snap given its 360 degree swivel design), each player can be sent the
exact same grounder. This allows for quick and accurate evaluation where it is easy to judge a player’s speed, reflexes,
and mastery of baseball fundamentals. How is this player’s hand speed versus that player’s? Does this player properly
set his feet and position himself well to take the grounder? With the right pitching machine, these questions become simple
to answer with some basic observation and your draft picks will become obvious.
And the same technique can be used at all of our tryout stages. Throwing the same fly ball repeatedly quickly reveals which
players can properly read the ball’s flight path and who has the best foot speed. And a pitching machine’s presence
in the batting stage goes without saying. Do you want to throw 2,000 pitches in a tryout to evaluate bat speed, rate of contact,
and power? We didn’t think so. A pitching machine in a tryout is a tremendous asset in determining who is a natural
outfielder or infielder, a power hitter or an Ichiro because of their consistency and versatility.
As in any sport, repetition is the key to mastery for the young baseball player. To properly teach the fundamentals of
fielding groundballs, for example, it is largely a matter of numbers and familiarity. The player who has fielded 10,000 groundballs
has an advantage over the player that has only fielded 1,000. And because of a pitching machines consistency, speed, versatility,
and flexibility, achieving these numbers is much easier than trying to hit all those grounders and fly balls yourself with
a bat. Furthermore, just like in the tryout situation, being able to throw the same grounder at every player on your team
allows you to quickly evaluate strengths and weaknesses and where your knowledge of fundamentals can best be applied. Is that
player afraid of the ball? Is that player standing flat-footed and waiting for the ball instead of attacking it? With the
right pitching machine and techniques, these questions are soon answered and your team is that much stronger because of it.
This article is just an overview of how a versatile pitching machine can help a team go from pretender to contender. We
will discuss drills and more specific techniques in forthcoming articles, but if you’ve just been thinking as a pitching
machine as a tool in batting practice, we hope that this article has given you some ideas as to the many applications of a
great machine like the Jugs Combo Machine for any municipal league, team, or individual player.
About The Author
Carl Fogle is a longtime baseball coach at the high school and community college level. He is also the webmaster of http://pitching-machines.us
and a leading expert in the use of pitching machines in the development of young baseball players.