The first pitching machine was a cannon loaded with gunpowder.
Charles Hinton developed the first pitching machine as a mathematics professor from Princeton at the turn of the 20th century. It was a cannon that could be expanded or contracted to adjust speed, and yes, it used gunpowder.
One of the versions of the pitching machine was mounted, but the other was shot from the shoulder like a hunting rifle. The rifle obviously shot blanks, and the ball was propelled by the expulsion of gases from the cannon.
As you can imagine, players felt uncomfortable in the crosshairs of the first pitching machine. Hinton tried to ease their fears by allowing them to use a foot pedal to control the trigger.
The first pitching machine shot a good, straight ball, and Hinton eventually added finger-like projections to the end of the barrel to get a successful curve ball.
Still, players were uncomfortable, and they were happy to see it go.
Paul Giovagnoli invents Iron Mike.
Giovagnoli was an entrepreneur in the driving range and miniature golf business, and he wanted to expand into the batting cage business after seeing the current baseball pitching machines. He could not get his hands on one that was suitable for his business, so in 1952, he made his own.
His simple design was practical, and this arm-type pitching machine quickly became the industry standard. Iron Mike arm-type pitching machines are favorites in the commercial baseball industry today.
Wheel pitching machines enter the market.
In 1960, Norman Bruce invented the wheeled pitching machine, which uses two wheels to propel the ball. These have become popular pitching machines, as they can handle balls of multiple sizes, so softballs and baseballs can be thrown by the same machine.
Today’s pitching machine market.
Today, there are multiple types of pitching machines in the market, and none of them force you to pull the trigger of a weapon aimed at your face. The most popular types of pitching machines are arm-style and wheel-style, and there are portable and stationary versions of each.
Pitching machines allow batters to practice hitting without risking pitcher injuries, and they allow them to practice consistently to perfect their technique. They are also used in little league, where pitchers are unreliable and may not be able to throw hittable balls repeatedly.