Baseball Pitching Machine Autoball Feeder or Completely Automated Batting Cage

So I just picked up a sweet Jugs pitching machine. Got some extra room in warehouse and need to get some exercise in between working on computer all day. I would hate to have to:

  1. Have someone feed balls into the machine every time I want to hit.
  2. Pay $500 for a 18 ball feeder
  3. Have to pick up a single ball for that matter

I should be able to do the software side with the arduino, I guess I just need some advise on what hardware to use and how to go about doing it. I am going to basically type my thoughts as I think of a way this will work.

Option 1:

  1. Build a slanted ramp out of wood infront home base that will direct all balls into 1 corner
  2. Have some sort of elevator ramp that carries the balls individually towards the roof
  3. The balls will be dropped into a tube (probably those heater or ac tubes) and will be on the right angle to fall to the end of the tube which will be connected to the pitching machine feeder.
  4. There is a arm at the end of the tube controlled by a motor that moves out of the way every 15 seconds or whatever, to allow the ball into the machine.

Option 2:

  1. Layout a net accross the floor of the batting cage.
  2. There will be one of those lifts on the roof that every 15 minutes or so will carry the net to the roof (with all the balls in it)
  3. The net will somehow drop the balls into a bin (near the roof) and the bin will feed the tube discussed in option 1

Option 3:

  1. Just buy a lot of balls and put them into the tube manually every time it runs out

I think with the right hardware, option 1 would work. I basically will need some wire like a hanger uses to build the elevator and even the tube (if I want to be able to see the balls). Anyone know where I can get such wire? I took a welding course in the past and am sure I am good enough to weld something together if I had to.

Here are some pics to give everyone an idea:

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Actually probably won't use a ac/heater tube, going to just use peice of metal about 2-3" wide on both sides with a 90 degree angle


I think I figured this all out, I just need guidence on the best method of getting of holding and releasing the balls. Is there a switch that pushes a rod out when connected and releases the rod with disconnected? I can just place it in the tubing and configure it to release a ball every xx seconds. I think this may be easier than using a motor, maybe something magnetic?

peterpan...did you ever figure this out? I've been trying to find the same answers and keep getting stumped.