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In this review of the Louisville Black Flame Pitching Machine, we examine what it brings to the table and how it stacks up against the competitors.
Overall Grade: 4.2 out of 5
The Louisville Slugger Black Flame Pitching Machine offers reliable performance in a versatile frame, available at an affordable price.
The Black Flame offers a velocity range from 18 mph on the low end to a maximum of 50 mph. While it certainly doesn’t pack the punch of some competitors, that velocity is more than enough for younger hitters.
A manual pitching machine, the Black Flame doesn’t require electricity or batteries to run. However, you will need a coach or parent to operate the machine. Thankfully, it is very lightweight, allowing for relatively easy transportation.
Overall, this is not just a budget pitching machine; it delivers quality performance and checks most of the boxes that parents and coaches of younger players look for.
- Very affordable price point
- Versatility to simulate batting and defense
- Fairly portable at 24 lbs
- Doesn’t require a generator or battery to operate
- Intuitive controls to tune velocity, distance, and height
- Not automatic; requires an operator
- While it is light, it can be awkward for just one person to transport
- Doesn’t offer high-end velocity
Black FlamePitching Machine made it into our selection of:
Should You Buy the Louisville Slugger Black Flame?
- If you want a pitching machine you can operate in fields with no generator or battery
- If you want a device that delivers quality performance without breaking the bank
- If you have older hitters looking to practice with a velocity higher than 50 mph
- If you want a machine that can operate automatically without manual input
Features – 3.9 out of 5
The Black Flame offers fewer high-level features than some battery-powered competitors but is excellent by the standard of affordable, manually-operated pitching machines.
The first feature many customers will look for is the velocity range; the Black Flame can pitch at 18 mph on the low end and ramp-up to 50 mph. That is an increase over Louisville Slugger’s previous batting machine, the Blue Flame, which topped out at 45 mph.
Another quality feature is the digital readout device, which allows you to adjust the pitches’ speed. The machine can also easily shift between ground balls, fly balls, and strikes/line drives.
The Black Flame’s pitching mechanism is particularly accurate; as long as you secure the machine to the ground, the pitches will consistently hit the same spot time after time. However, if it’s not adequately secured (with stakes outdoors or with sandbags in a gym), each pitch will move the machine, meaning the next ball will be off-target.
The Black Flame uses a simple lever mechanic to launch balls. The operator chooses the desired trajectory, presses down on a foot pedal to load the mechanism, and then pulls back on the lever to fire.
Portability – 4.0 out of 5
The Black Flame is awkward to carry but is easily light enough to be handled by one person—a rarity amongst pitching machines.
There are two main factors to consider when assessing a pitching machine’s portability: weight and frame. The weight is a major asset here; at 24 lbs, the Black Flame is one of the lightest pitching machines on the market that still provides high-end performance.
However, that does not necessarily mean it’s always easy to transport alone. The Black Flame has a long frame with a lot of moving parts, meaning it can be very awkward to lift and carry.
Durability – 4.3 out of 5
The Black Flame is built to last—customers are typically able to get years of use out of this machine.
Complex, battery-powered pitching machines typically have a wide array of things that could go wrong, throwing a wrench in the machine’s performance. But the Black Flame is a manual machine with a simple mechanism, and it is built with sturdy materials.
The biggest concern is an issue with the spring, but this is rare. Customers can be confident in their purchase providing years of use.
Safety – 4.5 out of 5
While there are pinch points, this machine does not feature the safety hazards of many competitors—particularly if it is exclusively operated by a coach.
Automatic competitors have a continuously turning wheel, which can lead to serious injuries if children get caught in it. This machine does, admittedly, have pinch points, but no wheels. And most importantly, as it requires an operator, there should always be an adult nearby.
Ball Type Used – 4.8 out of 5
The Black Flame is one of the most versatile pitching machines on the market, working not only with most baseball and softball variants, but also larger balls like soccer or volleyball.
Another benefit of the manual design is the versatility in potential sports for which it can be used. While most pitching machines are restricted to specific baseballs and, sometimes, softballs, any ball that can fit in the track will work with the Black Flame. That means you can also use it to train soccer (particularly useful for goalie training) or volleyball as well.
The Black Flame requires assembly but otherwise comes ready to use. As long as you have a bat and some balls, you’ll be ready for batting practice right away.
Why Buy the Louisville Slugger Black Flame?
The Louisville Slugger Black Flame Pitching Machine is one of the best pitching machines available on the market today, and arguably the very best manual machine.
If you’re looking for the most premium features possible, you’ll likely want to look elsewhere. But this machine does provide mid-tier performance (50 mph velocity) and is otherwise a near-perfect machine.
While it can be awkward to carry, it is incredibly portable at just 24 lbs. It is durable and safe, and works with just about every type of ball you would want to use. If you want an all-around pitching machine at a wallet-friendly ly price point, the Black Flame is the choice for you.