Last month’s podcast, “Pitching Machines, a Must-Have or Over-Hyped,” featured athletic trainer Mark Gifford and seasoned pitcher Gary Glasnow in a square-off about pitching machines. It was clear by the end that argument for pitching machines is strong.
Gifford began his argument by building credibility. He spent four years in the minor leagues as a pitcher and first baseman and later became an athletic trainer in the professional baseball arena.
Glasnow bounced back with ten years as a pitcher in the minors, then three years as a representative for Jugs Sports, Inc. As you could imagine by his later occupation, he is very pro-pitching machines.
Pitching machines are widely used at ball parks because they can be used tirelessly, and pitches can be programmed and repeated perfectly every time with no wild pitches. Glasnow noted that this allows players to practice their batting weaknesses and conquer challenging pitches through repetition.
On the other hand, baseball is never predictable, and wild pitches are part of the game. Gifford argues that too many repetitive pitches builds muscle memory that diminishes gameday performance. “Real baseball games are unpredictable, and so should be practice.”
Both former players agreed on one thing: pitchers get tired. In the end, they both understood that regardless of whether or not pitches should be repetitive, no pitcher can throw consistently for the time required for batting practice. The pitching machine won the debate, but there was room for a silver medal.
Glasnow and Gifford believe in a combination of live pitches and machine pitches, and they both recommend that if a team doesn’t have a machine that they go out and buy one now. It’s important to be prepared and have quality equipment, and the reality of the matter is that you are cheating your team if you don’t have a pitching machine, they both agreed.
Each baseball enthusiast had a clear preference for either live pitches or machine pitches, but neither could devalue either method. They spent the rest of their time on the features of pitching machines and determining what type of pitching machine would benefit a team the most. It amounted to cost, precision, and durability. In addition, Gifford pointed out that some pitching machines can be dually used for baseball and softball.
Take it, or leave it? Both interviewees agree. Pitching machines are a necessity for a baseball team, but they are not to be used as a complete replacement for the real deal.