At 5-Tool Sports Training Center's 7,000 square-foot, air-conditioned facility, David Collings—a former scholarship player at Andrew College and the University of West Georgia—leads a team of specialized instructors whose collective experience includes minor-league play and collegiate-level coaching. Together the team shapes young baseball players with results-oriented clinics, including a pitching program designed after those used by major-league franchises and the Chinese national team. Other sessions range from summer camps that cover all aspects of the game to position-specific clinics, such as introductory and advanced catching with Mike Day––a four-time College World Series catcher who went on to play with the Montreal Expos.
To keep their skill set sharp, athletes can schedule time in one of four 55-foot hitting cages, two of which boast Iron Mike pitching machines or two dedicated pitching lanes. Private instruction gives kids individualized feedback, and a video-analysis room allows them to see the errors in their swing or the understated chicness of swapping out a cap for a beret.
Sports A Rama East Cobb’s multisport facility encompasses 30,000 square feet of batting and pitching cages, a 3,000 square foot indoor turf field, and a half-court basketball gym. Athletes can train with the facility’s coaches to fine-tune sport-specific skills in baseball, basketball, football, softball, and lacrosse, or focus on all-around speed, strength, and endurance for improved cow-tipping techniques. Two large party rooms, an inflatable moonwalk, and an arcade create a welcoming, family-friendly environment for birthday parties or youth athletic teams.
Going from managing ostriches to running a baseball business may seem like a strange jump, but it's just another day in the office for Better Baseball founder Glen Robinson III. In the 1980s, he began raising and selling ostriches and emus as food and as companions for people allergic to pet rocks. A warm spring morning brought an impromptu visit for a customer who was less interested in the massive birds, and more focused on the netting that separated the animals' pens. Soon, Glen was spending more time crafting batting cages than selling his livestock, inspiring him to open what would eventually become Better Baseball.
Today, this bird-free business furnishes players of America's favorite pastime with the gear they need to play Little League, softball, or even college-level games. After taking practice swings inside one of Glen's onsite cages, players can pick up the gloves, glove pads, and eye protection needed to help them catch any pop flies or poorly aimed Cracker Jack from the stands.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Robert Herzog dropped off his laundry, picked up his mail, and took the local C train to work instead of the express A train. When he arrived for work at the north World Trade Center tower that morning, nearly 300 of his coworkers were dead. Stunned by his inexplicable escape from death, Herzog battled through his trauma by focusing on the good things in his life. Earlier that year, he met his wife-to-be playing coed softball. He had enjoyed the league but felt he could do better. Tempered by the sense of charity and community that was so ubiquitous after September 11, he opened ZogSports—a sports league that donates 10% of its profits to charity—in 2002.
Since then, leagues have spread from New York and the northeast out to Atlanta and the Twin Cities. Casual competitors in their 20s and 30s team up in touch-football leagues and indoor-volleyball leagues, making new friends on the field, at postgame happy hours, and at preseason press conferences.
When teams sign up for ZogSports's leagues, they choose a charity to represent. From there, teams compete to win the league championship, come up with the funniest team name, or order the most drinks at the bar after the game, all of which earn them money for their charity of choice. To date, the company has donated more than $1.5 million to various charities.
The trainers at 360 Baseball Club mint top players at every level of play, from little leagues up to college and the pros. Its program starts with the fundamentals of hitting, pitching, and fielding, coaching players to become well-rounded in all aspects of the game. Hitters then work on bat control and strategic thinking, while pitchers learn to command and control their curveballs and fastballs without relying on cardboard signs with instructions from fans. Additionally, the facility offers a physical training regimen for groups and individuals. There are specific programs designed to help pitchers improve their arm strength, base runners improve their speed on the base path, and outfielders improve their agility.
Hittersbox Baseball lets hitters battle against pros without ever leaving the batting cage. With its ProBatter PX2 Professional Baseball System—one of several training tools used by major leaguers—a virtual pitcher winds up just as a ball is launched through a hole in the video screen by a pitching machine hidden behind it. For a greater challenge, batters can change the location, pitch type, and sequence of pitches, or just close their eyes.
After practice, Pro Mirror video training allows players to relive their swings and analyze any pitfalls by watching five minutes of batting-cage video. These modern takes on traditional baseball practice, which Hittersbox coaches use for beginners and serious players alike, boast approval from owner Jasha Balcom, a former Chicago Cub, as well as an elite list of major-league clients.