Since 1988, the San Jose Giants have teamed up with the San Francisco Giants to showcase up-and-coming baseball stars, 148 of who have gone on to play in the major leagues. Under the expert eyes of a keen coaching staff, the Class A-Advanced California League team has won 11 championships and in 2009 earned the John H. Johnson President's Trophy for most dynamic bubblegum blowing. The 2012 season kicks off in April, with a packed schedule pitting the team against fellow Minor League rivals as often as seven days a week. Groupon holders can fly solo at 10 games or bring up to four of their closest friends, family members, or life-size cardboard cutouts to one game. They also receive a bonus team photo featuring 2011 megastar Gary Brown, whose stats from last year include a .336 batting average, 115 runs scored, 14 home runs, 53 stolen bases, and a partridge batted out of a pear tree. Catcher Tommy Joseph sealed a .270 batting average, swatting 22 home runs out of the park and delivering 95 RBIs. Audiences root for the home game from seats in the historic Municipal Stadium, where the San Jose Giants have played for nearly 70 years.
Since 1960, the city of Modesto has been the minor league home to six different big league franchises including the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Oakland Athletics. But despite all the bouncing around, the Nuts have consistently won, and have captured five California League championships over the years. Now affiliated with the Colorado Rockies, the team is still looking for its first title under the Nuts moniker, which it officially adopted in 2005 as a nod to the region's farming products and any fans who try to catch foul balls in their mouths.
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.
World Events teaches the fundamentals of baseball, flag football, basketball, and other sports to children ages 4–17 with its series of NFL-, MLB-, NBA- and WNBA-affiliated clinics, leagues, and camps. The noncompetitive Rookie League baseball league teaches children how to catch, throw, zip between bases, hit pitches from a strike-throwing machine, stand in the most flattering light for baseball-card photos, and more, and younger players can practice the same skills in T-ball lessons. Flag football and basketball leagues for boys and girls focus on speed, agility, and strategy, with occasional dodgeball sessions and punting or shooting competitions. Each flag football, basketball, and baseball team plays six to eight regular-season games (starting at $65/team membership). Students spend full days training in baseball, football, basketball, and more ($140/week) during the one-week summertime camps. World Events also proffers dance classes ($45/month) and martial-arts instruction for kids tired of hearing their dad follow them around acting as a sports announcer (starting at $45/month).
Unfortunately, when it comes to getting fit, hard work is not enough. To reach their fitness goals, athletes need to know what kind of workouts will help them shed pounds or build up the bulky muscles needed to fill out a gorilla suit. Knowing this, Velocity Sports Performance’s crew of certified trainers leads clients through personalized workouts inside a sprawling 18,000 square-foot facility. There, they show guests how to master balance boards, power lift, and perform parachute sprints on Astroturf, depending on their agenda. Athletes with similar ambitions can be taught in group sessions including speed camp for kids aged 9–18, boot camp classes just for the ladies, and workouts designed for pros such as Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller.
With a relentless focus on practice, San Jose Batting Cages lets players improve their hitting, pitching, and fitness to better prepare for their next outing on the diamond. Whether working through in-season regimens or off-season training, batters perfect their swing in indoor and outdoor baseball and softball cages, and hurlers enter the pitching lanes to hone their fastball against imaginary Ming Dynasty vases. Cages stay open until 9 p.m. during the week, helping players blow off post-work steam or just squeeze in a few swings before hitting the hay. A staff of instructors helps athletes develop all aspects of their game through hitting and pitching lessons as well as team and group clinics.