Opening weekend is a time for renewed hope, reordered batting lineups, and refreshing scents of glorious gunpowder in the sky. Catch the Flyers on May 28 for post-game fireworks after the hometown bats light up the Gary SouthShore RailCats, or pay homage to babies named Ruth as you run the bases with the kids on Family Day May 30. On May 31, remix Memorial Day grill-outs by downing two dogs off the bat, and score dollar dogs throughout game. Armed with a starter kit of ballpark eats and ballgame spheres, show the youngsters how to properly grip a fastball, a frank, and a cardboard sign that irrefutably proves fanmanship.
The thwack of bats hitting balls squarely on their stitched faces echoes throughout The Hitting Zone, a 16,000-square-foot indoor baseball and softball training center. There, skilled trainers draw on their own experiences in the field to help batters achieve that satisfying sound during private and group lessons. Coach Rick DeHart shares what he learned while playing for the Montreal Expos and the Kansas City Royals, and Chris Wilmot’s lessons are shaped by his time as a first baseman for the Cougars. Other trainers share stories of college ball and coaching high-school students while they demonstrate pro pitching and hitting techniques in six turfed training tunnels.
Budding swingers can also apply their newly learned skills in five baseball and fast-pitch-softball cages equipped with ATEC automatic pitching machines that aspire to play for the Yankees one day. A 12-inch slow-pitch-arc softball cage also awaits batters, who can fuel their efforts with refreshments from nearby vending machines. In addition, The Hitting Zone also welcomes birthday celebrants inside a 24'x27' party room, where they can eat cake in between whacking balls and listing all of the Great Bambino’s nicknames in alphabetical order.
Though they operate more than 200 locations in upwards of 30 states, the team behind U.S. Baseball Academy aims to make each young athlete's experience a personal one. Their four- or six-week camps are taught by local instructors who are current or former coaches at the high school or college level, and typically offer a 6:1 or better player-to-teacher ratio for intense, professional-style training. The Academy's proven itinerary of hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning drills was developed by an advisory board of college coaches and Major League players, including Cy Young Award?winner and ace pitcher Brandon Webb.
Drafted into the Philadelphia Phillies straight out of high school, Gary Bennett spent 13 seasons as a major-league catcher, a career that included a stint on the 2006 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Gary is one of several baseball specialists whose tutelage has contributed to Slammer's Training Academy's assistance in more than 250 collegiate scholarships and 30 major-league prospects. Each instructor enriches pupils' pitching and batting skills with private sessions, team instruction, and clinics and camps designed by major leaguers throughout the fiscal year.