Pitching Machines generally represent a significant investment on behalf of an organization or an individual. If you own – or are in charge of caring for a pitching machine — maintaining it properly is of the highest priority. Consistent maintenance accomplishes two things: It keeps the machine functioning properly and with accuracy, and it helps ensure that those using and caring for the machine are safe.
Here are the answers to some common questions that will help you care for your pitching machine and keep it running better for longer:
Can the balls I use ultimately affect the accuracy of my machine?
Many pitching machines are described as able to be used with “any type of baseball” or “regulation baseballs.” However, unless regulation balls are the only balls recommended by the manufacturer of the machine, you may want to consider any other alternative you are offered. Using regulation balls in most pitching machines actually harms them by breaking down the adhesive between the core of the ball and its outer filling, thus shortening the lifespan of the regulation ball. The effect on the machine is just as undesirable. The laminate on the machine’s wheel is more apt to wear away than it would be with a ball better designed for use with the pitching machine.
How often should I clean my machine?
How often you clean your pitching machine varies based on how much you use it, and whether the machine is used primary indoors or outdoors. Outdoor machines and those with heavy use require cleaning more frequently. You should clean your machine whenever you notice soil or other build-up on the machine’s surface or on the tire.
When you decide it’s time to clean your machine, use a clean and soft cloth, dampened with water. Don’t use chemicals like gasoline, solvents, brake fluid, or petroleum products to clean your pitching machine. Among many problems, these cleaning agents can leave lubricant residue which will certainly affect the accuracy of your pitching machine.
How can I remove residue from the wheel?
First, it’s important to make sure that you use only balls recommended by the manufacturer from the onset. Using regulation balls with a machine that calls for something else—like dimpled balls or specific pitching machine balls—could definitely be the problem if you’re noticing residue on your pitching machine’s wheel. Residue appears as a darkened ring around the tire of the machine or a glossy yellow surface over the tire.
Both JUGS Sports and Atec recommend using the sandpaper method for removing ball residue from wheels, and sanding the build up off with emery cloth or sandpaper. The machine should always be powered down and unplugged before you begin to work on the tire.
First Pitch recommends that when you see a reddish/brownish streak down the center of the tire, you remove build up by using a product called “Goof-Off.” They also recommend occasionally roughing up the tire with medium grade sand paper to add some traction to the rubber of the tire.
Most pitching machine tires will return to a white hue with proper cleaning and maintenance.
What is the best way to store my machine?
It’s best to store your pitching machine and the accompanying extension cord separately, with the extension cord indoors and easily accessible. First Pitch has advised us here at League Pitching Machines that the first rule of caring for a pitching machine is to “never let your machine get wet.” If your pitching machine must remain outdoors, you risk the machine getting wet and deteriorating due to moisture. Make sure you invest in a high quality, water resistant cover to keep your pitching machine as dry as possible and help prevent rust and corrosion. The pitching machine should be protected by an adequate dust cover whether stored indoors or out.
How do I perform thorough pitching machine maintenance?
You should understand the basic mechanical workings of your machine. Ask questions before purchasing as to whether you will need to change belts periodically. Examine your machine for missing or broken parts, as well as damage to the outside housing unit. Be aware of sounds like grinding gears and ask for help from an expert if you aren’t sure what is causing a problem. Remember that servicing machines requires certain expertise. Some machines even require that maintenance only be performed by the manufacturer or an authorized individual; otherwise your warranty could be voided.
Regarding the tires, every pitching machine model has different PSI standards. For best results with your machine, air pressure should be checked regularly and the manufacturer should be contacted if you are unsure of the optimal PSI for your machine. Lowers PSIs are generally recommended for softball and higher PSIs for baseball. In addition, tires should be checked and trued (or straightened) if balls seem to be jamming or are throwing wild pitches. Again, consider maintenance through an authorized representative or manufacturer to assure that you will not compromise your warranty.
If I have a service problem, what should I do?
It’s always best to contact the manufacturer with questions on the maintenance of your machine. They can provide a list of those who are authorized to repair your pitching machine in your area. Here are some contact numbers for major manufacturers sold here at League:
Heater/Trend Sports: 1 (800) 492-9334
Atec: 1 (800) 998-ATEC
JUGS Sports: 1 (800) 547-6843
First Pitch: 1 (888) 400-9498
Cimarron: 1 (888) 816-6517
In addition, please feel free to call us here at League Pitching Machines at 1-844-676-9347 anytime and we will help you connect with your machine’s manufacturer for answers to specific questions.
What if I need a new tire?
We will be happy to help you find a new tire or any other necessary manufacturer part needed. Feel free to contact us for details.
Remember, replacing a quality pitching machine can be quite the expensive endeavor. Proper maintenance on your existing equipment could mean a large savings in the future. Take the precautions necessary to keep your machine in pristine shape – its accuracy and longevity are dependent upon it.
This post was published by Matthew Porretta, editor at League Pitching Machines.