- $11 for a 60-minute batting-cage session ($23 value)
Pitching Machines: Hurlers That Never Fatigue
Batting cages feature automatic pitching machines, which emulate real pitches by throwing balls at various speeds. Check out Groupon’s guide to learn how they work.
There are many variations of pitching machines, but the most popular mechanism is the one that incorporates one, two, or three rubber wheels. As the ball feeds into the machine, the wheels grip the ball at different speeds, simulating the way a pitcher’s fingers affect the ball’s spin to make it curve or slide. A hydraulic barrel propels the ball forward with reliable accuracy, allowing the batter to practice countless reps of different pitches and speeds. Different settings can even allow for some defensive drills such as ground balls, pop-ups, and line drives. Among these benefits, pitching machines also eliminate fatigue for pitchers or coaches in practice and allow hitters to practice alone in a batting cage.
Today’s pitching machines are safe, efficient, and versatile, but the first such device was more like a medieval cannon. In 1897, an eccentric mathematics professor named Charles Hinton loaded up an odd-looking device with ample amounts of gunpowder, armed himself with a few baseballs, and fired away at Princeton University’s baseball players. The machine wasn’t very accurate—several players were injured—but the design wasn’t completely flawed, as it was still able to “throw” balls at various speeds and even manage a curveball with the help of two steel fingers placed on the muzzle.