The batter casually taps the bottoms of his cleats with his bat, takes a warm-up swing, and steps into the batter’s box. He repeats this motion a couple more times, feeling the weight of the lumber in his hands. Knees slightly bent, the batter pulls the bat back and peers over his forward shoulder, eyes fixated on a small sphere as it rolls into the chamber of a pitching machine lying some 50 feet away. Suddenly, the machine launches the baseball from its metal clutches at a speed of up to 80 miles per hour, destined for the heart of the strike zone.
Such is the scene inside the batting cages at Camarillo Bat-R-Up, an indoor batting-practice facility. Ballplayers can choose from slow- and fast-pitch softball and baseball machines, which hurl strikes at 40, 60, or 80 miles per hour. Instructional sessions take place within the Pro Cage, where an ex-professional gives pointers on hip turns, waiting on strikes, and driving outside pitches to work in order to use the carpool lane.
At So Cal Hitting Zone, former pro baseball players oversee a 7,000-square-foot training facility equipped with professional batting cages. Owner Will Skett and fellow coach Casey Snow—who played AA ball for the Toronto Blue Jays and at the AAA level for the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively—lead custom training programs for players of all ages, specializing in hitting, fielding, pitching, and strength and speed training. In the batting cages, Iron Mike pitching machines hurl fastballs, curveballs, and sliders, and the pro shop stocks professional equipment from brands such as Mizuno, Easton, and Rawlings.
James Deirmendjian had a decorated career as a brazilian jujitsu practitioner, winning martial-arts competitions and teaching submission grappling. He's parlayed that success into opening Fight Fit Training, where he helps clients get fit through boxing and kickboxing training, kettlebell workouts, and traditional lifting.
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.
No matter their athletic ability, kids aged 4–12 can get something out of Sports Champs' multiplatform day camps. That's because in addition to helping kids hone speed and strength in a number of sports––including basketball, field hockey, track, and volleyball––the CPR- and first-aid-certified counselors also encourage them to start thinking about sports-focused careers. Weekly guest speakers give fun and interactive lessons on broadcasting, management, nutrition, and physical therapy, to name a few.
From fast balls to sliders, the HomePlate pitching machines by Sports Tutor at On-Deck Baseball's indoor facility fling baseballs and softballs at speeds of up to 90 and 60 mph, respectively. Of course, being a gifted baseball player doesn't just mean knowing how to make contact at the plate. That's why On-Deck partners with West Coast Baseball School to host spring, summer, and winter camps for coaches and players alike. Taught by former members of the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners, courses focus on baseball essentials such as fielding, pitching, and serving umpires the customary tea during seventh-inning stretches. Besides refining skills on the field, On-Deck hones strong muscles thanks to exercise equipment such as free weights and the Next Level Fast-Twitch machine.