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The Franklin Sports line of sporting goods provides an affordable option for kids and recreational players to improve the timing and mechanics of their baseball or softball game. In this article we'll take a look at the Franklin Field Master baseball glove, the Franklin Sports pitchback net, and the Franklin Sports MLB® electronic soft-toss pitching machine. The image below shows some of our Franklin baseball products:
You can visit the Franklin Sports website for their current MSRP but it's also a good idea to compare the prices at Amazon, which is where we bought all three products.
The Franklin Sports Field Master baseball gloves (MSRP $24.99) are marketed as baseball gloves but when they arrived, the tags on both gloves said softball gloves. The gloves are made entirely of synthetic material (no leather) but they still feel somewhat like leather, just not high-end leather, and the gloves were made in Vietnam. The gloves run a bit small so if your hand measurement on a baseball glove size-chart is between 12.5" and 13", go with the 13" instead. These gloves are great for playing ball with your kids in the backyard or an occasional game at the town park, but the pocket is a bit on the small size and they probably won't hold up to league play. Still, you can't beat the price. We paid $25 for the 14" right-hand glove, and a few weeks later bought a 13" left-hand glove for $18. You can find both left- and right-hand gloves on the same Amazon page along with the available sizes.
Franklin calls this an MLB® Multi-Position Flyback Return Net (MSRP $44.99). Ours has been used every summer for four or five years, and it's still in great shape. The frame measures 65" x 44" and is very easy to put together and take apart for winter storage. The frame has five angle adjustment settings, comes with a strike-zone ribbon, and four J-shaped stakes to anchor the frame to the ground to keep it from moving all over the yard. The net attaches to the frame with small (3") bungee-type fasteners that have a small ball at the end so to attach the net to the frame, simply loop the bungees around the frame and net, then attach the bungees back onto themselves via the ball at the end of the bungee. It only takes a few minutes to attach the net and there aren't a lot of small pieces and parts that might get lost when it's disassembled. At the end of the season, the bungees get put in a zip-lock bag along with the frame's two angle adjustment pins, then the net gets folded up and put into a 13-gallon clear plastic bag along with the zip-lock bag of bungees. It was well worth the $50 price tag we paid and you can check Amazon for the current price.
Franklin calls this an MLB® Electronic Pitching Machine (MSRP $29.99) - check the current Franklin pitching machine price on Amazon. It's designed for kids ages 6 and up, and is more of a soft-toss pitching machine than a full bore fast-ball pitching machine. The Franklin pitching machine holds eight plastic baseballs (but only comes with six balls), has three height adjustments, pitches a ball every ten seconds, and has a red warning light that blinks just before the ball is delivered. The base of the pitching machine measures 8.5" wide x 9.5" long x 11.5" tall, and with the chute attached it's 20" tall. The machine uses four "D" batteries which are not included. The chute assembly was very easy, but you need a small Phillips screwdriver in order to access the battery compartment. The height of the pitched balls depends on how close the pitching machine is to the batter and which angle setting you've chosen. At a distance of 10-11 feet and set at the lowest height setting, it pitches the ball about 40-42" high. The machine's ball delivery is fairly consistent but not perfect, which isn't necessarily a bad thing because human pitchers don't pitch the ball in the same way every time either. Baseball would be pretty boring if they did.
The pitching machine's primary purpose is batting practice, but people have asked about using it to play with their dogs and for practicing Pickleball.
If you're buying the pitching machine to pitch balls to your dog, it pitches the balls about 20-28 feet on average depending on which height setting you've chosen. For those buying the pitching machine to practice Pickleball, with the pitching machine 10-11 feet away, it pitches the balls about 42" high so there should be no problem getting the balls over a three-foot tall tennis net. The only issue with Pickleballs is the holes in the balls.
We don't have Pickleballs but tried wiffleballs, and although the wiffleballs fit and the machine will pitch them, eventually the tab that feeds the balls into the chute gets caught in the wiffleball holes and will jam the machine, so the same thing may happen with the Pickleballs. The machine won't pitch real tennis balls at all because they're too small. For the most consistent results you need to use the solid plastic (70mm) balls from Franklin, and fortunately the replacement plastic baseballs on Amazon weren't expensive (we paid $7.50 for eight balls).
If your kids are already good ball players and you feel the Franklin soft-toss pitching machine won't be challenging enough, there are plenty of other pitching machines on the market, but they're more expensive. The Louisville Slugger pitching machine throws regulation (not plastic) baseballs and softballs between 18 and 45 miles per hour and has easy to adjust speed controls, but it's usually in the $150 range. The Junior Hack Attack softball pitching machine can be used by youth leagues, travelling teams, high school or college level players, and even amateur league players, but it has a four-digit price tag.
These Franklin Sports baseball products aren't made for league play and won't stand up to aggressive use, but they're a great option for family fun in the backyard or recreational players spending the day at the park, and they're very affordable. We have no complaints about any of the Franklin Sports products we've purchased.
Here's a basic review of the Franklin Sports Field Master baseball glove on the left, and the Franklin Sports soft-toss pitching machine on the right: