Some people are born athletes, but proper training can give most anyone an athletic edge. The team of trainers at Velocity Sports Performance knows how to take personal performance to the next level, just as they have done with their former clients—many of whom include professional and international athletes. Programs for student athletes help them achieve new heights from season to season and training for adults ranges from group fitness classes to elite personal training. With a massive 15,000 square feet of football turf, running tracks, ball courts, and lifting areas, programs can be tailored to help athletes excel in just about any sport.
At So Cal Hitting Zone, former pro baseball players oversee a 7,000-square-foot training facility equipped with professional batting cages. Owner Will Skett and fellow coach Casey Snow—who played AA ball for the Toronto Blue Jays and at the AAA level for the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively—lead custom training programs for players of all ages, specializing in hitting, fielding, pitching, and strength and speed training. In the batting cages, Iron Mike pitching machines hurl fastballs, curveballs, and sliders, and the pro shop stocks professional equipment from brands such as Mizuno, Easton, and Rawlings.
The metallic clunks of baseballs and softballs struck by swinging bats pulse through Castle Batting Cages, located inside Sherman Oaks Castle Park. The hurling apparatuses serve up these ill-fated spheres at speeds as low as 20 miles per hour and as high as 80 miles per hour. The slow-pitch-softball machines toss both low-arc and high-arc strikes, and the fast-pitch-softball cage tests reflexes with speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
Mulligan Family Fun Center's three locations surround parents and kids with sprawling smorgasbords of kinetic entertainment. Outside, each park's sunny grounds encourage healthy activity with putt-testing miniature-golf courses and the hairpin turns of go-kart tracks. In the batting cages, aspiring sluggers test their swing while recognized major-league sluggers test their disguise against the park's do-not-admit posters. Back inside, climbers scale the rock wall?s vertical challenges and friends battle friends in laser tag?s intense light-based combat.
Each location also has its own signature activities. The Torrance location's rookie go-karts, for example, enable younger drivers to take a turn down the track, whereas the Palmdale location boasts a longer, 1,500-foot track for children and adults alike.
The batter casually taps the bottoms of his cleats with his bat, takes a warm-up swing, and steps into the batter’s box. He repeats this motion a couple more times, feeling the weight of the lumber in his hands. Knees slightly bent, the batter pulls the bat back and peers over his forward shoulder, eyes fixated on a small sphere as it rolls into the chamber of a pitching machine lying some 50 feet away. Suddenly, the machine launches the baseball from its metal clutches at a speed of up to 80 miles per hour, destined for the heart of the strike zone.
Such is the scene inside the batting cages at Camarillo Bat-R-Up, an indoor batting-practice facility. Ballplayers can choose from slow- and fast-pitch softball and baseball machines, which hurl strikes at 40, 60, or 80 miles per hour. Instructional sessions take place within the Pro Cage, where an ex-professional gives pointers on hip turns, waiting on strikes, and driving outside pitches to work in order to use the carpool lane.
When he looked past the flourishes of players in the majors, Dylan Gaines realized the swings of professional hitters were nearly identical. Working with pro ballplayers such as Darrell Thomas and Nez Belelo, Dylan honed those swing fundamentals during his stint on the Seattle Mariners. At All-Star Baseball School, he's broken down and distilled these basics into a potent dram of batsmanship for students since 1997. Along with Eric Fischer, a veteran of the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, Dylan teaches his pupils hitting, pitching, and fielding skills during private lessons and summer camps. After the classes let out, little leaguers can study the greats with an instructional DVD hosted by baseball legend and record holder Pete Rose, who walks viewers through pointers for hitting homers without planting baseballs in the stands beforehand.