Pitching machines can be approved for use in Little League baseball and softball. When machines are used in Little League games, they will be set up at the spot of the pitcher's mound and the managers of the two teams will come to an agreement on what speed should be used for young hitters. Pitching machines can be used for hitters from ages 6 through 11, but they are most commonly used for hitters who between the ages of 7 through 9.
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The speeds used in most machine pitches will vary as the season progresses. In the beginning of the season when most young players are getting started, the speeds will be slower. An adjustment will be made at the 1/3 mark of the season and then another adjustment will be made at the 2/3 mark. Those dates are approximate and coaches can move up the speeds if their players are hitting well or delay them if they need more practice at the slower speeds. In most leagues, the speed of the pitches will range from 25 to 55 mph.
Within The Game
In some cases, teams will start off a game against a pitching machine with all players hitting the ball hard. Instead of having players have an opportunity to make plays, they are only chasing long drives in the outfield. This would be an indicator to the coaches that the machines are set at too slow a speed. If both coaches agree, the speeds can be changed after both teams have had their at-bats at the same speed.
Operating the Machine
Only adults should be allowed to operate the pitching machine. A youth player positioned at the pitching mound will make defensive plays, but that youngster should not operate the machine. An adult associated with the batting team will operate the pitching machine. If the hitter is right-handed, the youngster at the pitching mound should stand on the third-base side of the pitching machine. If the hitter is left-handed, the youngster should stand on the first-base side of the pitching machine. The adult will always stand on the opposite side of the youngster.
Number of Pitches
Because the machine is pitching, all pitches should be strikes. If the machine is not working correctly and strikes are not being thrown, then the machine needs to be taken out of play and the game should revert to coach pitch. However, if the machine is functioning properly, a batter should have five swings to put the ball in play. If the player swings and misses at the last pitch, he is out. However, if he fouls the pitch off, he gets to continue until he puts the ball in play or strikes out.