Coaches should always be looking for ways to maximize the time they have with their athletes. There is often much to work on but seemingly never enough time. People tend to have a love-hate relationship with pitching machines when in reality they deserve more credit than they are sometimes given. There are so many ways to incorporate the use of a machine into your team’s practice: both offensively and defensively!
1) Hitting and BP, obviously
The main reason these machines exist, hitting and batting practice. We recently talked about how to effectively utilize a pitching machine in your practice in this article.
2) Infield, outfield ground and fly balls
We recently discussed the role pitching machines can play in your defensive practice as well! Find that article, here. The possibilities are truly endless for incorporating a machine on the defensive side of the ball.
– Shoot it high in the air so your fielders can work on those tough towering fly balls; both in the in and outfield.
– Shoot balls up the middle for consistent placement when working with your middle infielders. This is especially helpful when teaching “middies” how to get to those balls, how to layout for them, and for them to get a feel for it if this is a new skill set.
– Use to help your outfielders practice and learn how to play balls on the ground. You can mix it up between ground and fly balls throughout the repetitions.
3) Catching specific work
Pitching machines can be a catcher’s best friend …or enemy. There are tons of ways to utilize a machine while making your catchers better. It can also help save pitcher arms while keeping the speed of things as game like as possible.
– Have your catcher get into their squat and close their eyes. Shoot the ball high into the air, on the sound they open their eyes, work on locating the ball, and finishing the play. To make it more difficult, you can have them start with their back to you.
– Utilize a machine to work on blocking and receiving the ball. If you have a machine that you can move up and down and side to side with ease you can really have a lot of fun with this! Make sure you set the speed appropriately for your age and talent level.
– Shoot balls past your catcher so they can work on reacting to that passed ball and collecting it quickly. If you want to work on flips to the plate (runner coming home from third) this is an option! Have someone to the side, out of the way of the pitch or the plate, and slide them over to receive the toss or flip.
4) Balls to first base
In line with catching specific uses, there are many beneficial uses for your first baseman (while also saving your fielders’ arms). Use the machine to help them practice receiving as well as picking balls in the dirt or short hops at first. You can have them start in various positions in the field before breaking to first to keep it game like.
5) Bunt defense
Using a machine is a great way to move quickly and effectively through bunt defense. You can have live batters working on their short game through many repetitions (especially if they are younger or new to bunting and need to get the feel for it). If the machine is consistent with location your hitters should be able to get the bunts down often, providing tons of “reps” for your defense. This is also another way you can save your pitcher’s arms when they need rest. There is a time and place where a pitcher can and should throw some “BP” or bunting practice but in general, saving and resting those arms is crucial. Pitchers can still partake in bunt defense! They can stand on or near the mound next to the machine, mimic a motion, and go through the play they just don’t have to go full out and throw live.