The pitching machine is a very useful practice tool, frequently used at all levels of baseball.
It allows hitters to work on their skill even when there’s no one available to pitch against them.
However, it can’t fully simulate the real in-game throws.
One of the main arguments for this is that a large majority of them don’t use regulation baseballs.
With batters putting in hundreds of swings in the cages, many of them see their bats break or get damaged after a while.
So, this raises a dilemma are batting cage balls bad for bats, or do bats have only so many hits in them before they begin to weaken and eventually become unusable.
Why are Batting Cage Balls Bad for Bats?
The main reason why the batting cages don’t use regular baseballs is durability. The game ball likely wouldn’t last more than a month in the cage.
Balls used in pitching machines need to be able to go through the pitching wheel and withstand thousands of hits.
Otherwise, batting cages would soon be out of business with all the money they would spend on new balls. But, the improved durability comes with some drawbacks.
Batting cages commonly use dimple rubber balls that are more compressed, harder, and often heavier than regular balls.
They’re made of rubber foam material, with some varieties depending on the manufacturer.
The added density and weight will cause more stress to your bat, especially the barrel.
As they don’t compress in the same way as regular baseballs, the odds of bat cracks increase.
This can be compared to real balls when waterlogged or used in extremely cold weather.
In case you’re still wondering are batting cage balls bad for bats, the key argument probably comes from manufacturers themselves.
Many of them reserve the right to deny a warranty if the bat has been used against a pitching machine and hit by dimple balls.
Most manufacturers clearly state that you shouldn’t use new bats in batting cages, The damages caused this way are usually obvious and will void your warranty.
Do Batting Cages Provide Bats?
Nowadays, most batting cages allow customers to choose using their own bat or the one supplied by the facility.
Depending on where you practice, bats may be available for free or for rent at a certain price.
Using the bat provided by the batting cage is a great alternative, as it allows you to put in the swings while preserving your game bat.
As batting cage hits can shorten the life of the bat, many players avoid using their game bats when practicing against the pitching machine.
They prefer bats provided by the batting cages or older and cheaper ones. This is not just the case with wooden bats.
Even composite and aluminum bats are vulnerable to damage from dimple rubber balls.
Composite bats in particular, as batting cage balls can break composite fibers reducing the pop and effectiveness.
Aluminum bats are probably the best choice for in-cage batting. They can suffer dents, but even at that condition can still be used for practice.
What Kind of Material is Used for Batting Cage Balls?
Balls used in batting cages are specifically designed for pitching machines and created to provide high durability in this environment.
The material they’re made of may vary depending on the manufacturer.
Still, the majority is made of high-grade polyurethane foam and typically does not have seams.
They mostly come in yellow color as it increases visibility and helps with hand-eye coordination.
However, some manufactures, in an effort to make them more similar to regular baseballs, produce pitching machine balls with full-grain leather cover around the rubber center.
The debate whether batting cage balls are bad for bats is ongoing and there are arguments for both sides.
Still, there’s no doubt that the life span of the bat will be shorter if used in the batting cage. Even when practicing with regular balls, every hit takes its toll.
With dimple rubber balls used for pitching machines, this effect only worsens. Even bat manufacturers agree on this matter.
Unless you have money to burn, there’s no valid reason for using a new or expensive bat in the cage.
You should save your favorite and best bat for games only. An old bat or the one you get at a batting cage will do just fine for the practice.