The ball you choose for your pitching machine can greatly impact both the longevity of your machine and the quality of batting practice.
If you already have a pitching machine, you should only buy and use balls that your machine is designed to pitch.
To make the differences clear, we made this pitching machine ball guide with the pros and cons of different pitching machine baseballs and softballs, so you can make an informed purchase.
Dimpled Pitching Machine Balls
Dimpled pitching machine balls get their name from the many dimples in the ball. These balls have dimples all around them in a uniform pattern, making them more accurate and consistent than any other kind of ball. Dimpled pitching machine balls are specifically designed for a variety of machines and look more like an enlarged golf ball than a regulation baseball.
Due to its unique design, it is a top-of-the-line pitching machine ball that will increase the longevity of your machine and quality of your batting practice.
Pros of dimpled pitching machine balls:
Uniform design around the whole ball designed for pitching machines
Does not damage pithing machine wheels
Deliver a consistent pitch location and velocity
Balls last longer due to design
Will not dent aluminum bats
Not as realistic as regulation balls
Do not have the same dink sound and feel when hit by a bat
Leather pitching machine balls look very similar to a regulation ball, but their low-profile seam is designed to reduce wear and tear on the pitching machine. It is favored by some players and coaches as they provide a feel more familiar to a real game.
Pros of leather pitching machine balls:
Looks and feels exactly the same as a regulation baseball
Low seam design reduces damage on the wheel of the pitching machine
Overall more realistic feel
Less consistent pitch location and variable velocity
May not work with some pitching machines
Regulation Baseballs for Pitching Machines
The pros and other high-level players often prefer to hit regulation balls, however, these differ somewhat from gameday balls. They are designed to look and feel as close to regulation balls as possible while still being usable for pitching machines.
Pros of regulation baseballs:
Provides closest practice to a real hitting scenario in a real game
Can damage the pitching machine wheels
Not every pitching machine is equipped to pitch them
Pitching machine may damage or leave marks on regulation baseballs
Lite Balls for Pitching Machines
Lite balls are exactly the same size as baseballs at a lighter weight, and they have dimpled designs that are fit for specific purposes. The three types of lite ball are soft, hard, and slider simulated.
As the name suggests, soft lite balls are softer than traditional baseballs and will travel at half the speed of a hard lite ball. Coaches use this ball when they want to focus on training a hitter’s hand-eye coordination.
Hard lite balls will pitch at higher speeds and have an accurate pitch due to their dimpled design. They have many of the same benefits of a soft lite ball, but coaches can use them at higher levels
Slider lite balls were designed for Slider pitching machines and can accurately pitch curveballs and sliders. The low-profile design reduces the spin on the ball from the machine giving hitter practice with randomly placed curveballs and sliders.
Mini Balls for Pitching Machines
At the size of golf balls, mini balls are designed to give players a more difficult batting practice to hone in on their hand-eye coordination. The thinking goes that if a player can consistently make contact with a smaller ball, they will have an easier time in games with a regulation ball.
Using Softballs with Your Pitching Machine
Similar to baseball, softball coaches can use a variety of balls based on their pitching machine.
First pitching machine softballs come in two sizes, 11 or 12-inch.11-inch softballs can be pitched faster and the small size trains players’ hand-eye coordination.
Pitching machine softballs also come in a lite or regulation weight. The lite softballs are designed to be pitched faster while regulation or “real” pitching machine softballs best simulate the feel of a game-day softball.
This summarizes the main types of pitching machine balls on the market. As you can see, just throwing any ball in a machine is not advisable as different machines are equipped to handle certain types of ball.
Overall, an important rule of thumb is to be consistent with your pitching machine ball choice. Do not combine many different types of ball into a machine as this can increase wear and tear. This will add to the longevity of your machine and give you better results during your batting practice.