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Pitching Machine Versatility

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 ó two of which we discuss below.

Tryouts:
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 ó a groundball stage, a fly ball stage, a batting stage, and a pitching stage ó 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. Thatís 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. Letís 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 playerís speed, reflexes, and mastery of baseball fundamentals. How is this playerís hand speed versus that playerís? 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 ballís flight path and who has the best foot speed. And a pitching machineís 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 didnít 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.

Practice:
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 youíve 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 href="http://pitching-machines.us">http://pitching-machines.us and
a leading expert in the use of pitching machines in the development of
young baseball players.

Carl Fogle