There’s arguably no better social distancing practice partner than a ball machine. True, you don’t get the live ball benefits—not to mention the trash talk or post-workout adult beverage—that come with trading shots with a flesh-and-bone adversary. But in terms of never missing a shot, getting tired or smirking at a flubbed volley, you can’t beat the dependability of a ball machine. 

The Slinger Bag puts an innovative spin on this familiar teaching staple. A ball launcher constructed for maximum portability, it has a straightforward, user-friendly design that allows players to hit the courts and get right to work on their games, whether it be soft feeds for beginners, or spin-laden drives for the advanced set. 

First Impression

From the tough nylon covering, to the rugged zippers, the Slinger Bag will remind you of a duffel bag on steroids. There are three main compartments: a deep pocket on top for racquets and gear, a hopper cover that extends out to house balls, and bottom panel that reveals the launcher, speed controls and battery unit.

A clip and Velcro strap help hold an optional telescopic ball pick-up tube. When extended it can carry around 20 balls and makes gathering them up more convenient. The bag is a bit bulky, but should fit comfortably into most car trunks—two carry straps are attached to assist in completing the assignment or do any general lifting when needed. 

Performance

Setting up the launching process is supremely uncomplicated. Position it on the court, set the speed of ball and rapidity of feed with the turn of two knobs and turn on the power. A button on the supplied remote control will get the machine started—one beep indicates it’s working; a second beep just before balls start slinging. 

The bag shoots straight feeds that can come upwards of 45 mph and between 2-to-10 seconds in frequency. More impressive than the speed of the ball is the amount of work on it—as you increase the pace, the spin level goes with it. 

Bottom Line

If you’re in the market for a new ball machine, the Slinger Bag is definitely worth considering. Like any version 1.0 technology, there are a couple of wrinkles that could stand some ironing. Ball jams could be lessened, the sound a bit more refined and oscillation fine-tuned. But the guts of a top-notch ball machine are all there. It’s easy to transport and use, quick to operate and delivers feeds that will provide great practice for a rank novice up to a serious ball-striker. The affordable price tag of $550 when compared to the competition is a nice bonus. If only you could share a beer with it.