The 10 Best Pitching Nets
10. Franklin Sports MLB Deluxe
9. Louisville Slugger Pro Style
8. Easton XLP
7. Champro Infinity
6. Sklz Quickster
5. Jugs Instant Screen
4. SwingAway Zone-In
3. Champion Multisports Pitch Back
2. Rukket Original Sock It!
1. Pitcher's Pocket
A Brief History Of Pitching
Pitcher vs. batter is one of the defining battles of modern times, right up there with security vs. privacy and grandparents vs. Facebook. However, when baseball was invented in 1839, the pitcher (known then as the feeder, which is a much better name) actually wanted the batter to make contact. As a result, he would toss it softly, often underhanded.
Winning soon became much more valued, and pitchers started actually trying to get the batter out. There were few restrictions on pitching motions at this time, which eventually led to pitchers taking running starts before letting loose with their throws.
The 1870s saw the invention of the curveball, as the creation of the National League meant there was a need for more experimentation to keep hitters off-guard, since most clubs only employed two pitchers.
Rule changes around this time allowed pitchers to throw much harder, and they became so dominant that they had to be moved 15 feet farther from the plate. Scoring increased drastically as a result, marking the first salvo in baseball's never-ending battle to find the perfect balance between offense and defense.
Pitchers would strike back in the "dead-ball era" of the early 20th century. Most games then only used a couple of balls, and as a result they would become misshapen and hard to hit. Tampering with the ball was also common, with pitchers using everything from sandpaper to tobacco juice to alter its trajectory.
This ended in tragedy in 1920, when Ray Chapman was struck in the head by a tampered ball, killing him. This led to the prohibition of pitches like spitballs, as well as the requirement that the ball be replaced every time it got dirty.
The slider made its debut a few years later, with pitchers needing to diversify their arsenals in order to compete with sluggers like Babe Ruth. This was especially true after the use of relievers became more common after WWII, as these hurlers needed weird pitches to make up for their relative lack of talent.
By the 1960s, the pitchers had once again become dominant, with 1968 being declared "the year of the pitcher." The MLB responded by lowering the pitcher's mound from 15 inches to 10, reducing the amount of momentum the hurler could put on the ball.
Today, the use of five-man rotations and full bullpens means pitchers are working less than ever before, with many specialists carving out roles requiring them to throw for an inning or less. This is due in part to the growing concern over the strain that pitching puts on young arms, and most clubs enforce strict pitch counts to keep staffs healthy.
There's no telling where pitching will go from here, but one thing's for certain: baseball would be considerably more awesome if we could call Bartolo Colon one of the top feeders of all time.
How To Choose A Pitching Net
Regardless of whether you're looking to buy a pitching net for team practices or just so you can work on your curve in the backyard, finding the right one is important. Below are a few things to think about before you pull the trigger on a purchase.
First, decide where you'll use it most. If it's going to be stationary, then you can buy a heavier, more cumbersome model, but if you'll need to transport it from place to place, then you'll want to find one that you can break down and carry easily.
The sturdiness of the net and frame is important to consider, as well. If you live in an area with high winds, you'll likely want a model with a steel frame or with spikes to secure it. Of course, this also increases the unit's weight and the time required for setup.
You should also think about how much assistance your pitcher will be receiving when using it. Some have clearly marked strike zones so your ace can know where the pitches are landing, while others allow for variations in their angles to allow for practicing defense at the same time.
Finally, it's important to consider whether you'll be using it for anything other than pitching. If you'll be hitting balls into it, you'll want sturdier netting, or else you'll be replacing it frequently. On the other hand, if you're coaching a team on a budget, you might want to invest in a model that allows for a variety of uses.
Regardless of what you choose, it's important to know that owning a net can't make you a better pitcher. However, it enables you to do the one thing that can help: practice.
How To Keep Your Arm Healthy While Boosting Your Game
While being a pitcher is one of the most fun — and potentially lucrative — jobs in sports, it's also a great way to get a date with an orthopedic surgeon if you're not careful. When practicing, you need to take special care not to put your arm in danger.
The most important thing you need to know is that power in your pitch comes from torque in your core, not your arm. If you're throwing entirely with arm strength, you're not going to get much velocity behind the ball — but you will set yourself up for injury.
Also, the most important part of your practice routine is likely going to be the time you're not throwing. Be sure to give your body plenty of time to rest and recover, and don't push it beyond its breaking point. There's a reason that the pros get so many days off between starts.
Your practice routine isn't just about time spent throwing, either. You should be spending time in the gym, strengthening the muscles you'll need when you're on the mound. Flexibility is also important, so a yoga practice could end up being just as valuable as your net.
Above all, listen to your body — because if you don't, you'll probably have to listen to a doctor tell you how dumb you were for over-extending yourself.