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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Baseball Coaching Digest - 10 Recommended Safety Tips For Making Pitching Machine Use Safer

By Nick Dixon

It is important that all coaches and parents that use a pitching machine with players know the dangers involved. There are definite safety precautions that should be observed to insure the safety of all players, coaches and parents during pitching machine use. This article outlines 10 safety tips that teams and families should remember to follow to insure that no injuries occur during the use of a pitching machine.

1. Never use a pitching machine without a sturdy and safe protective "L" screen used to protect the person feeding the machine. Inspect every protective screen before you use it. Rotten or unsecured netting are dangerous. Look for holes and weak spots in the net that may allow a ball to pass through.

2. Make sure that your electrical connections are safe. An uncovered or exposed electrical wire or connection could cause shock or electrocution.

3. Always test your machine for accuracy before you start throwing pitchers to a batter. Many machines must have the speeds of the wheels set in varying speeds to prevent the ball from knuckling. Carefully read the owner manual to see recommended setting and wheel speeds for various pitches.

4. Always allow each new batter to see a pitch or two before stepping into the batter's box. A batter must have a marked or set spot to assume his stance. An unaware batter may move into the path of the ball if he does not know exactly where the machine is throwing the ball.

5. Make sure that all balls being thrown are of the same type. Different types of balls fly differently. New leather balls fly different from old and worn leather balls. Smooth or worn dimpled pitching machine balls fly different from new dimpled pitching machine balls. Test your balls to know if they fly correctly and accurately.

6. Always check your back drop or back stop area to make sure it is free of anything or anybody that a fouled ball may damage. Any backstop or screen behind the batter should also be checked for holes and weak spots.

7. Never use a new or game bat for batting practice off a pitching machine. The weight of the balls and the speed of the thrown balls can damage expensive thin walled bats.

8. Always make sure that the batter and feeder have on batting helmets. This rule should apply if a player is feeding the pitching machine.

9. When using a pitching machine in a batting cage, make sure that the cage walls on all four sides are overlapping enough on the floor or ground to contain all hit or pitched balls.

10. It is recommended that the person feeding the machine display some sort of arm movement or motion to give the batter an action that simulates live arm action. One commonly used motion is to use two balls. One ball is held in the opposite hand from the hand feeding the balls into the machine. The feeder holds the ball high above the machine feed slot. The feeder slowly drops the ball and touches the back of the hand that is actually dropping the ball into the machine. When that contact is made, the ball is dropped into the machine. This action helps the batter develop a rhythm or timing. This arm motion allows the batter to "tripper" of load and get ready to hit.

I hope these safety tips and precautions are helpful to you. Good luck to you and your team. Have a great day, Nick.

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Nick Dixon is the President and founder of Nedco Sports, a sports training company established in 1999. Dixon is also an active and full time high school baseball coach with over 25 years experience. Coach Dixon is better known as the inventor of the BatAction Hitting Machine, the SKLZ Derek Jeter Hurricane Hitting Machine, the SKLZ Target Trainer, the SKLZ Derek Jeter ZipnHit Pro, and the SKLZ Strikeback Trainer. Dixon is also a contributing writer for BaseballCoachingDigest, the Youth Baseball Digest, the Baseball Parent Guide, the Baseball 2Day Coaches Journal, and Blog4Coaches.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick