During the Gary SouthShore RailCats' inaugural season in 2002, the players spent an estimated 200 hours on buses?traveling approximately 12,000 miles without their own ballpark to call home. Indeed, the diamond at U.S. Steel Yard was still under construction, forcing the team to play its entire first season on the road. But while the trip could have been a rocky way for an organization to start out, it instead forecasted a wild ride ahead in which the RailCats never stopped moving. After just four years, the RailCats captured their first Northern League title, marking the first of five straight appearances in the championship series?a Northern League record.
Despite that first year away from home, the RailCats seem to have settled in well at U.S. Steel Yard. Within the park, views of the South Shore commuter train remind fans of the team's origins, and a 55-foot scoreboard towers over left-centerfield in much the same way early pitchers once towered over batters from atop a stack of milk crates.
Unlike an outdoor field, The Perfect Swing's more than 60,000 sq. ft. facility isn't ever affected by bad weather or movie crews shooting yet another inspiring comeback story. The sound of cracking bats and thudding balls fills the training space rain or shine year-round. Baseball and softball players face off against seven automatic pitching machines, which hurl balls at speeds between 35–70 miles per hour, while pitchers work their arms in 17 practice tunnels.
The Perfect Swing also offers four indoor turf fields for year-round baseball, softball, and soccer. Shoppers who are looking to stock up on softball and baseball equipment can visit the on-site store.
Athletes aren't left to swing and throw blindly, though. The Perfect Swing boasts a staff of more than 25 baseball and softball instructors, including many current and former professional players. During private and group instruction, these experts help students hone fundamental skills in areas such as hitting, pitching, catching, fielding, and agility. Instructors also lead outdoor baseball camps during the summer months.
Baseball and softball players who want to make the jump to the next level often need coaches who know exactly what it takes. At Pastime Sports Academy, the experience offered by the coaching staff reaches to the very top of the talent heap, with a roster of high school varsity coaches, college pitching coaches, and former minor leaguers such as ex-Yankees draft pick Dietrich Enns. For the past 17 years, athletes have taken advantage of this diamond expertise through private and group instruction, which focus on skills ranging from shagging fly balls to fielding grounders to hitting a curveball. Pitchers can develop their velocity and control from a dirt pitching mound, while hitters can perfect their swings and double-pump-fake bunts inside five batting cages outfitted with Iron Mike pitching machines.
When Ben Shimon first started S3 Leagues, he envisioned recreationally competitive leagues full of people with whom he wanted to be friends. Six years later, they've run 112 leagues total and attracted 15,100 participants. S3 Simply Social Leagues and S3 Singles Leagues hosts dozens of coed leagues year round, such as 16-inch softball, kickball, skeeball, beach volleyball, Whirlyball, and dodgeball at locations throughout the city. After matches, all teams hang out at local sponsor bars for celebratory sips or to plot their comeback in the next game. Each of the leagues meet once a week, with off-field events happening as players' social calendars dictate.
With a location in Dooley Park and another located two blocks away from the home of the country's most prominent basketball player, President Obama, DATSWZUP's Saturday basketball camps are filled youngsters who have their eye on the ultimate prize?a career in the NBA. The non-profit camp is run by Norrice Quarles, the CEO of DATSWZUP?a business that sells clothing and accessories. Because of that entrepreneurial spirit, Quarles doesn't just stress basketball and fitness fundamentals to kids and parents during camp. He also stresses important life skills, such as how to read and play the stock market, using the Nike corporation as a real-world example.