Let me first start by saying that if your fungo (what is it? -LINK TBD) skill is very good, are in excellent shape and you are under the age of 50, you most likely do not need to read this post 😉
On the contrary, if your fungo skills are average or god forbid below average, and your joints get stiff after practice, using a pitching machine is a VERY good idea!
Nothing, I mean absolutely nothing beats getting on the field and learn how to field popups to build a player’s confidence.
But that doesn’t mean you should go out and buy a brand new, expensive 3 wheeled pitching machines (I did buy SportsAttack Jr pitching machine for batting practice for my son – LINK TBD).
On the contrary, buying a used pitching machine to conduct popups and grounder drills will give you both maximum value and efficient use of your limited practice time.
For example, if you can snag something like this ATEC Rookie machine (the original ATEC Rookie machine dates all the way back to early 2000’s) will give you hours of practice time without breaking sweat (at least on your part).
The average cost of one of these used machine goes anywhere from $150-450, depending on the age of the unit and when you purchase it so The best way to setup a search notification Craigslist/Letgo/Offerup/Facebook Market Place listings.
I kept my eye for over a year and I was finally able to snag the aforementioned ATEC Rookie baseball machine for $200 (the seller wanted $300 which included a soft-toss machine but I opted just for the pitching machine).
As you can see from the picture, this unit has decent wear and tear with the usual rust spots but the friction discs were in fairly good condition and they spun up quickly without too much whine.
Most likely, I will have to replace those 2 friction discs (pointed in red arrow below) down the road but I plan on cleaning them often to keep it in good shape.
As I said before, you can run highly effective grounders and popup fly drills but you will need to keep few things in mind:
- ATEC rookie machine is not a reliable pitching machine (you really need to use a 3-wheel setup)
- Friction discs rotates the ball with a top spin (i.e. tends to “sink” the ball)
- Good for practicing to read a straight on popup fly balls. In regular games, outfielders will need to read hook and/or slice fly balls. To simulate those line drives, you will need a 3-wheel pitching machine
- Even baseballs made from the same manufacturer may behave differently. Try to use a flatter seam, leather cover baseballs to stay consistent
So although there are certain things that a 2-wheel pitching cannot do, there are tons of drills you CAN do:
Here are some infield and outfield drills you can use (obviously adapt them to your age level):
Thanks for reading this article!