The sight of a medieval castle surrounded by tall cacti may seem anachronistic at first, but it's hard to question the image when one is trying to putt a mini golf ball into a grassy hole off the circulating paddles of a windmill. It's whimsical moments like this that make Golf N? Stuff's name feel understated. Beyond the two lush 18-hole mini golf courses that draw year-round visitors, the entertainment center boasts go-karts, bumper boats, and more than 100 arcade games. Batting cages let both kids and adults perfect their swings. Visitors can refuel on hot dogs, Dippin' Dots ice cream, and soda at the snack bar.
At Goals Soccer Centers, athletes of all ages try their hand—or rather foot—at the world’s most popular sport during league and open play. Eleven artificial-turf fields accommodate five-a-side teams for fast-paced outdoor games. Rebound walls enclose pitches, inviting players to bang balls off them for tricky passing, and netting keeps all spherical objects from flying out of bounds. In between matches, teammates refuel at the onsite restaurant or relax in a lounge equipped with TV and free WiFi. Complete with showers, tidy locker rooms also give footballers ample space to dress and clean up before and after contests.
Batting is an essential skill that baseball and softball players alike hone at On Deck Batting Cages. The 17,000-square-foot training facility?s coaches, however, aren?t interested in players who can only showcase one skill. So beyond aiming for the rafters in one of 14 cages, pupils also refine their knuckleballs on a 72-foot pitching lane whose portable mound accommodates pitches from any distance. During private lessons, meanwhile, baseball and softball instructors focus on everything from throwing to fielding, the art of catching a fly ball while simultaneously mowing the outfield. Once players are ready for the diamond, On Deck's resident uniform guru, Laura Simon of J&L Designs, can outfit them with her comfortable, eye-catching uniforms and apparel.
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.
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.
The numbers used to describe the Power Alley OC facility are impressive?20,000 square feet in total; 4,200 square feet of multipurpose training area; 8 automated batting cages?but none of it amounts to much without the coaches who put it to good use. The staff counts a former Atlanta Brave, a former San Diego Padre, and former college ballplayers among its ranks, adding up to a depth of experience that trumps any training aid. They pass on the knowledge and skills that took them to the highest level to their baseball- or softball-playing pupils through lessons on hitting, fielding, and pitching for teams and individuals. Hitters can also make use of the batting cages and ATEC pitching machines at their own leisure, enabling them to simultaneously work toward twin dreams of becoming both a big league slugger and rapping umpire.