An International League mainstay, the Columbus Clippers have prepped future stars for the big leagues since 1977. The team has claimed nine league championships over the years, most recently in 2011. The Clippers have served as the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians since 2009, helping players hone the skills that they need to succeed in the majors and impress friends during the piñata portion of birthday parties.
Up to 10,100 Clippers fans pack into Huntington Park, which still gleams with a new-stadium sparkle after sprouting up in 2009. During that inaugural season, the facility was named Ballpark of the Year by multiple sources, including BaseballParks.com and Digitalballparks.com, whose writers referred to the stadium's design as "the most exciting we've seen in two decades."
Baseballs and softballs pinging off bat barrels or popping into the webs of leather gloves echo across the training facilities at New Albany Baseball Academy, where aspiring sandlot stars flock to improve all aspects of their game. Using the same drills and techniques of Major League stars, the academy helps players of all ages and abilities improve their swing, perfect their throwing motion, and field grounders and fly balls with confidence. The academy also encompasses fitness facilities and training programs that focus on improving players' strength, speed, and agility.
The friendly staff at Putt N Play Family Fun Center welcomes exhilaration enthusiasts of all ages to its cheerful expanse of games and attractions. Groups revel in the spirit of competition while bouncing golf balls off the brick boundaries and shrunken boulders of the 18-hole miniature-golf course. Afterward, the batting cage offers a place to practice chopping at a moving target, whereas air hockey provides players with the chance to practice distracting facial-distortion techniques. Once the day's excitement has left the group tired and hungry, a concession stand refuels parties with pizza, hot dogs, and soda.
Westerville Golf Center's lush driving range coddles golfers with first-rate facilities that landed it on Golf Range Magazine's 2011 Top 100 Ranges list. With the Birdie Frequent Hitter card in tow, golfers can whack, juggle, and comically trip over $36 worth of driving range balls while traversing 80 verdant grass slug-stations. A fleet of 40 covered tees, heated in winter, shelter stick swingers from summer sun and unseasonable chills, and loaner clubs are on hand for those still slicing the air with old mannequin legs. Ideal for sharing with a close friend or one of the staff's PGA instructors, orbs come in small ($5/40 balls), large ($7.50/75 balls), and jumbo ($13/175 balls) buckets.
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.
The crack of a bat signals another powerful hit inside Extra Innings' spacious, 70-foot-long batting tunnels. Each cage's Iron Mike pitching machine emulates the power and speed of a cantaloupe tossed by Popeye, sending a feast of fastballs screeching toward homerun-hungry hitters. Extra Innings' 12,000-square-foot facility also divvies its plethora of space for private pitching, fielding, and batting lessons hosted by seasoned instructors, as well as a circuit training area furnished with soft-toss machines, tees, and stride boards that further perfect techniques. The onsite pro shop also equips players with all of the baseball essentials.:m]]