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A baseball comeback story in San Diego County technology

Atlanta Braves player in mid-throwing motion, showing mechanics stressing pitcher arms.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Guy Sarver, longtime resident of San Diego’s East County, has built a baseball catching machine that will throw back in about four seconds a ball that has been thrown at it. Sarver was a college baseball pitcher. However, a mid-1980s motorcycle accident left him with a damaged rotator cuff that ended his baseball-career prospects. He became a baseball scout for the Chicago Cubs in 1991 and also provided professional pitching lessons to young would-be professional athletes.

Sore knees from crouching sessions as a catcher taking the measure of young pitchers inspired Sarver for design of a catching machine that would return baseballs, for an uninterrupted flow of throwing practice. The result was the Sarver Strike Zone.

Relying on his electrical engineering training and his understanding of the dynamics of pitching, he built a model of his machine. He incorporated his enterprise on April 8, 2009, as Pitching by Mechanics, Inc. He applied for a patent for his “receive-and-return apparatus.” The closest product, from the 1970s, and was only a net assembly that lost more baseballs than it returned. “My machine is in a league of its own,” Sarver says. His design seemed more affordable, portable and effective than similar throw-back devices that other inventors had abandoned.

Saver hit the road in his RV to market his invention, driving a 13,000 miles route planned around baseball destinations from the Little League World Series to Cooperstown. By summertime 2009, neither his invention nor his road trip was paying off. Broke, depressed and homeless, Sarver spent a three-year stay in a transitional living center. Gradually, he regained confidence.

Sarver has come back for another tryout. He’s bettered the design of the Sarver Strike Zone, for increased capabilities, including options for baseball return simulating grounders, fly balls and line drives, for practice in fielding skills. A remote control option allows coaches to program training sessions for duration and difficulty level, and a user interface assesses overall performance and skills improvement from practice sessions.

As an experienced coach he believes his machine will improve young pitchers’ training by its consistency in ball-return delivery, encouraging the correct mechanics of pitching. “It’s why I named the company as I did,” he notes.

His machine went to manufacture at the end of March. He plans company expansion. He has even been able to buy back his old RV, finding some of his prized baseball mementoes still inside.

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