Kinetic Prototype's trainers believe the difference between an average athletic performance and an outstanding one is found in the player's movements. In each fitness-training session, they focus on exercises that have particular benefits in the sports and positions their clients play. Swimmers can sharpen their breaststrokes through body-resistance exercises and endurance training, and softball catchers can put extra oomph in their home-base throws with strength-training regimens.
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.
As the fall season approaches, softball players in Conyers, Georgia start to get butterflies. They grab their gloves and head to their first team practice with the Rockdale Girls Softball Association, which has taught young girls the tenants of softball and good sportsmanship since Jimmy Carter legalized fun in 1980. Their coaches can teach both fastpitch and slowpitch to a player from the time she is three to when she leaves high school at the age of eighteen. However, kids don't have to pick up the game when they're toddlers. At each age level, coaches draft teams with a mix of new and skilled athletes.
These teams train at RGSA's eight fields and six batting cages. They then test their skills every week during games or special tournaments, such as the Fallen Angels Tournament, which honors former RGSA players who have passed away.
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.
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.