Line drives sizzle and skid across the facilities at Staton Sports, where ballplayers polish their skills and veteran coaches prep athletes to compete in a variety of sports. Backed by stints with three MLB organizations, the center's president and CEO, T.J. Staton, heads a staff of coaches who bring a combined 20-plus years of professional playing experience to each practice, game, and training session. The center's field also plays host to traveling teams, and inside two party rooms, visitors gather to celebrate birthdays or exalt an adolescent bat's aversion to the peer pressures of cork.
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.
Founded by sports enthusiast and former adolescent Rick Hart, Jump Start Sports works to enrich pupils' childhoods by developing useful life skills through athletics. Qualified counselors employ their wealth of experience working with children to help campers learn teamwork and fair play as well as the fundamentals of fielding baseballs, scoring soccer goals, or synchronizing pom-pom work. A course structure built around age-appropriate activities, group play, and free electives ensures that students never get bored, and an 8:1 pupil-teacher ratio enables one-on-one assistance to young champions as they practice the graceful art of pitching or the scheming intrigue of free-agent contract negotiation.
Bat-A-Rama's seven batting cages, which spit out softballs or baseballs, are designed to let the hitter pick the speed and height of the pitches based on skill level. Each $1 token forces the machines to throw 15 pitches, providing ample opportunity to practice swinging for the fences, hitting behind a runner, or catching moving balls in plastic grocery bags. Three of the seven cages spew both hardball and slow softball pitches, and one speedily whips out softballs sans arc. Though not included in this Groupon, Bat-A-Rama makes old-fashioned ice cream on-site.
Casual and determined athletes alike will find their sport at Game On Sports Center, a complex that hosts everything from drop-in open gyms and parties to private instruction and weeklong camps. Adults and kids can play volleyball, basketball, floor hockey, soccer, and dodgeball on three courts, their fancy footwork benefiting from the all-purpose Sport Court flooring endorsed by the NBA and the NCAA. An additional baseball and softball practice area features two 70-foot batting cages, as well as pitching mounds, L-screens, tees, and other equipment. Though Game On hosts a regular rotation of clinics and camps led by athletes that have played and coached at high school, collegiate, and semi-pro levels, all of their supervised facilities are also available to rent for private parties or for dramatic sports-movie montages.
As the only major college bowl game in the Midwest, the 15th annual Little Caesars Pizza Bowl hurls a hearty dose of the heartland into Detroit's downtown dome. The nation's leading receiver, WMU's Jordan White, plans to pile onto his career total of 1,646 receiving yards and 345 bouquets caught on field. Meanwhile, Purdue's head coach, Danny Hope looks to limit White and an electric offense that has lit up scoreboards with an average of 50 points in its last four games. To gunk up the gears of this 11-pistoned scoring machine, Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short clogs running lanes with his 310 pounds and disrupts quarterback Alex Cardner's time in the pocket with hypnotic interpretive-dance moves. On the field, the season's good tidings give way to the smash-mouth embraces of the faithful with images magnified on two 27'x96' video boards that tower over both end zones and give players a rare chance to check their hairdos.