Are you Rawlings or Spinball? Spinball Sports is an independent company and an official licensee of Rawlings Sporting Goods. Spinball is the designer and manufacturer of all Spinball and Rawlings Pro Line pitching machines. (We are not associated with the discontinued Rawlings one wheel pitching machine.)
Two wheels or three? The two wheel machines are much lighter and more portable, cost less, and throw the same range of pitches. The three wheel machines are more accurate with real baseballs and much easier to adjust. If portability is important, the two wheel is the way to go. For ease of use, we recommend the three wheel machines. For defensive drills all over the field, the Rawlings two wheel machine is your best choice.
How accurate are these machines? That's hard to quantify, and most competitors exaggerate (a lot). It largely depends on the type and condition of the balls you use. The plastic dimpled balls are more accurate because they vary less than leather balls, especially after use. In recent testing, the two wheel machine threw 97 of 100 pitches for strikes using low seam baseballs and 100 strikes in a row with dimpled balls. The three wheel machine threw 99 of 100 strikes with both types of ball. We can't guarantee you'll get the same results, but if you have used any other machine, you'll be happy with these.
How do you set up the two wheel machine to throw the various pitches? Spin is induced on the ball by setting the wheels at different speeds. The greater the difference in speeds, the greater the spin. (Same speed = no difference = knuckleball.) On a two wheel machine, the ball always spins (and curves) away from the faster wheel. By rotating the machine, the wheels can be postioned to spin the ball in any direction. We include a laminated color chart with each machine for guidance. After some practice, most people don't need the chart and can set up custom pitches on their own.
How do you set up the three wheel machines to throw the various pitches? The three wheel machines do the math for you. Just set the pitch speed directly, (as opposed to wheel speed on the two wheel machine), the spin direction, and the spin amount. The wheel speeds adjust automatically. You will still need to adjust the direction or aim of the machine using the two hand wheels.
What kind of balls can your machines throw? The machines can throw just about any ball under 4" diameter and 7oz weight, including real leather baseballs and softballs as well as the plastic dimpled balls specifically designed for pitching machines. You can also use the machines with cricket, lacrosse, or tennis balls. We've even had customers use the machine with hockey pucks, although we don't recommend it. Dimpled balls will last longer and be more accurate than laced leather ones. Softer balls are easier on the wheels and also more accurate because they grip the wheels better. The one ball we recommend against is a synthetic leather laced baseball. The cover material is such low quality that it tends to smear on the wheels, leaving a slick residue that must be cleaned off to maintain proper performance.
Can the machines throw grounders and fly balls? Yes, but each machine is different. The Spinball Wizard will throw grounders and fly balls, but no catcher's pop ups. It also can't quickly change direction to distribute balls around the field. The Rawlings 2 wheel machine is specifically designed for defensive drills and can be swiveled freely in any direction to quickly throw balls anywhere on the field. The three wheel machines have a full adjustment range but the geared drives can not be re-oriented quickly.
How did you make the machines so light? Our engineer's background is in the aerospace industry (14 years at Boeing) and our machines were designed from the ground up with a light weight in mind. The formed steel frame is engineered not only to be solid and robust, but also lightweight. While this light weight makes the machines very portable, it can also allow the two wheel machines to recoil when used at high speeds on a slick surface like hardwood or cement. To correct this, we recommend using a non-slip mat or carpet scrap to absorb the shock and keep the machine in place. On grass, soft dirt, or turf the machines are good to go as shipped.
What maintenance is required? Not much. If stored outdoors, the machine should be covered when not in use to keep the motors and electronics dry and to prevent UV related fading. Tarps are available at local hardware stores, or even a large plastic trash bag will do the job. Do not leave a covered machine outside during a windstorm - the cover can act as a sail and the machine could be damaged from being blown over. Machines should not be stored in temperatures over 100 degrees to prevent premature degradation of the wheels, particularly in humid climates.
Is this a good machine for my child? To hit against, yes. To operate, absolutely not. The machines can throw baseballs 100+ mph, which can be lethal. It should only be set up and operated by responsible adults and only at speeds near those that the batter will normally see. Batters should always wear a helmet and be aware that the machine will throw balls and strikes.
Can I use a generator? What size do I need? Yes - we recommend an 800 watt generator at a minimum for the two wheel machine and a 1000 watt minimum for the three wheel.
Can I use a car battery and an inverter? It is possible, but a gas powered generator is usually the better solution. The battery should be a deep cycle / marine type, and the inverter must be a true sine wave inverter, rated 1000W or higher. Modified sine wave (MSW) inverters will not work.
Do you offer a 230V/240V version? Right here. We also offer three different 230V power cords - UK, EU (Schucko), and Australian.
What is the wheel recovery time? Under 3 seconds for hard (real) balls and under 2 seconds for medium and soft. By comparison, ATEC lists their recovery time at 8 seconds. Our thicker wheel tread provides better rebound so our wheels don't noticably slow after throwing a ball.
How long does it take to convert the machines from baseball to softball? You have to replace the legs (which slide into sockets) and the ball feeder tube (two or four screws, depending on model). You also have to move the motors (four screws each on the Spinball 2 wheel, one threaded knob each on the others) to their proper positions. It should take about five minutes.
A note about top speed On the two wheel machines we advertise a top pitch speed of 105 mph, but the fastest fastball the machine can throw is closer to 95 mph. That's because you can only get the top speed, 105 mph, out of the machine if you set both wheels at 105, which throws a dangerously unpredictable 105 mph knuckleball. (You always get a knuckleball when both wheels are set to the same speed.) Obviously, we highly recommend the machine never be used for batting practice with this setup. To throw a fastball with realistic backspin, you need to set one wheel faster than the pitch speed and one wheel slower, for example, 105 and 85 will generate a 95 mph pitch with a reasonable amount of spin. So the two wheel machine's top pitch speed is actually obtained with a knuckleball, not a fastball. We're not being deceptive, but it can be confusing, and all our competitors advertise their top speeds the same way. On our three wheel machines, because you set the actual pitch speed directly instead of the wheel speeds, 100 mph is the true top speed for all pitches, and the wheels sometimes spin significantly faster in order to generate the proper ball spin.