With a three-time Louisville Slugger Region 21 coach of the year and a scout for the Florida Marlins on its seven-man roster, the staff at Upper Deck Baseball Academy commands years of competitive diamond expertise. The team puts its 8,900-square-foot facility to work assisting budding baseball and softball stars with improvement of their physical, mechanical, and mental capabilities through creative, focused drills. Two Iron Mike pitching machines and two Jugs pitching machines hurl heat down the indoor batting cages, allowing players to work on bat speed and hitting to the opposite field without the awkward eye contact that comes with facing a real pitcher. Players can also have their chops recorded with video swing analysis, allowing for real-time feedback on swing mechanics.
Concrete Wave brings a slice of California style to the Northeast. For more than 20 years, the shop's primary focus has been skateboarding. In addition to stocking decks and boards from makers such as Alien Workshop, Zero, and Original Longboards, Concrete Wave sells skate shoes and clothes from Nike, DC, Vans, and Volcom, among others.
Despite the emphasis on skating—which extended to the opening of a partner skate park in 2008—the shop is also as passionate about powder as an enthusiastic makeup artist. Technicians in the board shop tune up snowboards in preparation for the winter snow season and also sell boards, boots, bindings, and apparel from brands such as Salomon, Vans, DC, and Dakine.
With the opening of its first store in 1989, Eastern Boarder established a foothold in the then nascent extreme-sports category and has since ridden the explosion in popularity of skating, snowboarding, and BMX. Today, at each of its five stores, devotees of these now mainstream sports can find gear, accessories, and apparel by manufacturers such as Volcom, Neff, and Nike. In recognition of its staying power, Snowboarder magazine named Eastern Boarder the Coolest Shop in the Country in spite of several sabotage attempts on its thermostat. The shop also sponsors a pro snowboarding team that’s been acclaimed by the likes of ESPN Action Sports.
Gravity holds no sway over visitors at Sky Zone Providence. Upon donning a pair of SkySocks, customers step onto a patented, wall-to-wall trampoline to bid the ground farewell. The bouncy surfaces stretch to the walls, where trampolines set at 45-degree angles let kids and adults repeatedly soar through the air like a superhero trying to wrack up frequent flier miles. Staff also mixes organized sports into the jumping equation by hosting games of dodgeball inside the trampoline arena.
For more than two decades, Paxton Sports Centre has encouraged healthy living with its large tennis, swimming, and fitness facilities. During warm months, six outdoor red clay courts beckon competitive tennis athletes, and four indoor courts accommodate year-round play. The indoor pool allows swimmers to hone their butterfly stroke, and the outdoor pool allows butterflies to emulate humans by doing cannonballs. The complex’s fitness facility bolsters muscle mass with free weights, Keiser fitness machines, and spin bikes.
Golfers across the handicap spectrum practice bogey-thwarting skills at Natick Golf Learning Center, where PGA- and LPGA-certified pros preside over a multifaceted outdoor practice facility. The center?s outdoor driving range offers 75 artificial and natural-grass hitting mats; two chipping greens, a putting green, and a practice bunker let players practice their finesse shots. During daily lessons, the pros enlist video analysis and other teaching aids to help pupils tackle new skills or correct recent on-course weaknesses.