The crack of bats and the cheers of putt-putters making hole-in-ones are mainstays in All Stars Family Fun Center's soundscape. Outside, guests navigate the miniature golf course or swat at curveballs in the batting cages. Inside, a plastic-formed pyramid leads kids to the Fun Factory, where they can leap into the air and traverse inflatable obstacles. The arcade, meanwhile, awards prizes to kids who win enough tickets or are particularly adept at blackmailing counter attendants, while the snack bar refuels players with pizza and hot dogs. The fun center can also host memorable birthday parties, replete with cake and a t-shirt for the celebrant.
It takes extreme levels of athletic refinement to make it to the pros in any sport. But whereas some football players can find success by focusing their energies entirely on blocking, and basketball players on sneaking under benches to tie opponents' shoes together, most baseball players must master at least two discrete skill sets to make it to the top. These facets of the game—hitting and fielding—are each incredibly difficult in their own right.
JD Closser knows something about hitting and fielding, as eight different big-league organizations can attest. Drafted by Arizona in 1998, he would go on to play three seasons in the majors with Colorado as well as playing in the Milwaukee and Los Angeles systems, among others, over a 15-year career. Though a catcher in his heyday, JD teaches all positions at Going Pro Baseball Academy. A range of programs can teach pitchers to develop command, third baseman to develop an accurate throw to first, and right fielders to develop the attention span to watch a chewed up sunflower seed reach flower-bearing maturity. Going Pro houses the latest training equipment, such as two full-length retractable cages, three pitching mounds, and full Astro Turf floor.
Kenrick Smith and his team of golf instructors are driven by one central goal in their eight-week lesson package: turn beginners into lifetime golfers. Kenrick?s academy, The Triangle Golf School, provides a curriculum that focuses on building a fundamentally sound swing and a teaching environment that is fun, constructive, and does not force students to forage for their own bounty of wild golf balls. Though primarily geared toward junior golfers, the school offers lessons and clinics to clubbers of all ages and abilities. The Triangle School?s indoor facility fosters year-round practice, allowing players to hone their swings without fearing rain or dust storms created by rebellious sand traps.
At A-1 Sports and Wellness Center, a team of sports specialists and personal trainers help clients of all ages perfect their game and build their bodies into lean, muscular machines. Golf expert Kenrick Smith helps players fine-tune swings and strategy with video analysis and driving range practice. The facility also hosts archery ranges, kids' track programs, and batting cages that help train aspiring athletes in a wide range of skills.
With two basketball courts, a volleyball court, a turf field, and an indoor soccer field, MVP Sports Factory boasts enough space to accommodate its wide array of kids' sports programs. Lessons teaching soccer, basketball, tennis, and blastball?an introductory form of baseball?inspire confidence and teamwork at the tricked-out facility.
Founded in 1902, when everyone walked uphill both ways, the Bulls have evolved into one of the country's best-known minor-league teams. Boasting a rich history and talented prospects making their way to the majors, the Bulls play in the 15-year-old Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Featuring a 10,000-seat capacity, comfy extra-wide seating, a new video board, and a sublime view of the bull perched atop the 32-foot Blue Monster in left field, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a superb place to witness the 2009 AAA National Champions run, hit, and skillfully communicate with a flurry of dexterous semaphore. Stocked with young talent, the Bulls will showcase several players in 2010 that are sure to soon end up on a major-league roster. Inspired by 23-year-old Desmond Jennings—who posted a .325 batting average and .419 on-base percentage last year—and 22-year-old, hard-throwing Jeremy Hellickson—who fanned 70 batters and walked only 15 in 57.1 innings—the Bulls are primed for another title run through an action-packed schedule this year.