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From BR Bullpen
A pitching machine is a piece of equipment which can automatically throw a baseball towards home plate. Pitching machines are never used during games, but serve during batting practice. A good pitching machine will have adjustable speeds, and will always throw the ball in the strike zone, making it easy for the batter to work on adjustments to his swing. However, a pitching machine cannot easily imitate the effect of a breaking ball, which explains why batting practice pitchers are useful in certain circumstances.
The mechanism that throws the ball can be either two turning wheels, the ball being fed between the two and spurting towards home plate, or an arm acting as a trebuchet. Other models have a sort of gun barrel directing the ball, which is propelled by a blast of compressed air.
Lorenzo Ponza is considered the inventor of the modern pitching machine, bringing out his first model in 1952, and constantly improving upon its design in later years. The earliest model, designed by Professor Charles E. Hinton of Princeton University, dates back to 1896, but did not gain widespread use, unlike its latter-day successor.