Choose the Right Ball for Your Pitching Machine

by Chuck Stewart

The controversy surrounding what type of ball to use when taking batting practice has been around for years. Coated baseballs, also called pitching machine balls or dimple balls, are often thought of in a negative manner with the argument that they do not provide the same feel as a real baseball when struck by the bat. In my opinion the pitching machine balls are superior for their durability, longevity, cost benefit. Coupled with the fact that they do not scuff and pick up moisture like real baseballs so the flight from the machine is much truer leading to better pitches and more consistent swings during batting practice makes them a great choice. This article describes those points in great detail.

Flashiest Color – When looking at a baseball coming from a pitching machine the first thing a hitter will notice is the color of the ball. It has been proven that a yellow ball is easier to see than a white ball, especially when flying from the arm or wheel of a pitching machine. The bright color is intended to provide th ebest overall visibility for the most lighting conditions.

Consistency and Durability – The durability of a practice baseball is probably the most important factor. A regular baseball is required for game use. If used regularly, the regular baseball will absorb moisture, become scuffed and wear out at a fast rate. Pitching machine baseballs, with their unique design, will last much longer. A pitching machine baseball can be expected to be used for 2-3 years before needing to be replaced. Many hits can be had over the course of 3 years. The plastic coating will not allow moisture to penetrate the ball. A regular baseball will act like a sponge for any water nearby. Damp fields or dew filled lawns will soak a baseball. As the baseball adds weight from the moisture it becomes very heavy. When a wet baseball is used in a pitching machine the throws can then become erratic due to the weight. The fun-filled task of taking batting practice with a pitching machine can become outright dangerous. Many crazy-aimed pitches will be thrown by the pitching machine. Pitching machine baseballs provide a much more true throw to the strike zone with each and every use.

Longevity – Keeping the baseballs clean will help ensure they reach their full useful life. There never is a concern about getting the balls wet, which is great. A simple mixture of detergent and warm water is all that I use to keep them clean. My teams also will hand dry them if the field is wet when we are using the pitching machine balls. I have found that by keeping them clean and wiping them occasionally, the balls will last their expected 2-3 years and be in good shape the entire time.

Greater Value – While the initial cost may exceed the cost of real baseballs, the fact that these balls will be used for 2-3 years makes them a far greater value for any team or parent. Baseball costs have risen along with other types of baseball equipment. A regular box of baseballs will cost about $60. Most teams will need two boxes per year. That math makes using pitching machine baseballs an economic win for the team. The cost of the balls used in the pitching machine are a little greater at $72 per box. The fact that the balls will be used for 2-3 years makes them a great value for any team.

The smart choice between using pitching machine baseballs and real baseballs for batting practice with a pitching machine is an easy one. Load up the pitching machine and start taking batting practice, it is time to play ball!

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