Spinball Sports Products
900 White Oak Dr, Mount Vernon, IL
What do mechanical engineers do when they need a pitching
machine? They design their own, of course. From that simple idea,
Spinball Sports Products was born. In 2003, two Boeing mechanical
engineers, Terry Payne and Tom (the hit man) Hart, decided it would be
a fun project to build a pitching machine. Both had played baseball in
college and were still playing competitive amateur baseball together.
The two spent many long nights working in Terry's barn / machine shop
trying out a lot of new ideas. Some worked out, some didn't, but we
always learned something in the process. For example, it's always a
good idea to install a wheel's lug nuts before you turn a machine on.
Parts you just welded are hot. Things like that. Eventually the pair
emerged with the original Spinball Wizard two wheel pitching machine.
When the first test pitch missed the net and actually went through the
side of the barn, they realized they were definitely on to something.
This original machine was designed around the same white pneumatic
wheels used by other manufacturers. It featured a ball and socket joint
for adjustment, which simplified the frame and made the machine lighter
than anything else available. After a few design tweaks, this prototype
was performing as well as a factory built machine. It had a top speed
of 105 mph and could throw any pitch from any angle. Even better, the
machine could be built for less money than buying one. Recognizing the
potential of their low cost, light weight machine, Hart decided to try
to build a business from it.
After two years of
selling the original version of the machine with modest success, Hart
decided to incorporate a number of new ideas into a total redesign, and
the current version of the Spinball Wizard was born. The new machine
replaced the white pneumatic wheels with precision machined solid
wheels. The new wheels allowed for a much smaller and lighter frame,
dropping the machine's weight to 58 lbs - less than half that of the
market leader. The precision wheels were also much better balanced,
increasing pitch accuracy while nearly eliminating vibration and noise.
In fact, during a recent demonstration at a local high school, batters
stepping up to the plate kept asking if the machine was even on.
The new design was a hit, and Spinball was selling machines as fast as
they could build them. Overwhelmed by orders, Spinball invested in a
brand new manufacturing facility located in Mt. Vernon, IL. They hired
several new employees, including vice president Steven (Spot)
Spotanski. Spotanski now runs all day-to-day operations, supervising
both production and customer relations. Plus, like Spinball founders
Hart and Payne, Spotanski still plays baseball and coaches youth
softball. This means Spinball products are constantly being used and
improved by the people who build and sell them. The new hires freed
Hart to return to engineering new products, and the list of upcoming
products is a long one.
The first new item was
the recently released one wheel Spinball Wizard pitching machine.
Designed for younger players and programs with limited budgets, the new
Spinball Wizard is perfect for machine pitch leagues. The machine
throws strike after strike with any type of ball, including the new RIF
(reduced injury factor) balls. Available for baseball, softball, or
both, the machine weighs just 42 lbs for the ultimate in portability.
Top pitch speed is 62 mph but higher speeds can be simulated by placing
the machine closer to the hitter. The machine can even be rotated to
throw curves and sliders.
Spinball has grown steadily since their very first pitch, and is now a
rising force in the pitching machine market. Besides offering top
quality products and outstanding customer service, Spinball believes
the key to their success has been their strategy of selling direct to
customers rather than using distributors. While all companies sell
their machines online, others also use retail distributors, so they
have to sell direct for the same inflated price as their retailers.
Spinball only sells direct, so there's never a retail markup, saving
customers literally hundreds of dollars on every machine. It's why we
say Spinball offers big league quality at a back yard price.
The Spinball Sports manufacturing facility and showroom:
Our grand opening was featured in local papers: Carbondale,
and arm machines are currently in development, with release scheduled