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.
When he looked past the flourishes of players in the majors, Dylan Gaines realized the swings of professional hitters were nearly identical. Working with pro ballplayers such as Darrell Thomas and Nez Belelo, Dylan honed those swing fundamentals during his stint on the Seattle Mariners. At All-Star Baseball School, he's broken down and distilled these basics into a potent dram of batsmanship for students since 1997. Along with Eric Fischer, a veteran of the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, Dylan teaches his pupils hitting, pitching, and fielding skills during private lessons and summer camps. After the classes let out, little leaguers can study the greats with an instructional DVD hosted by baseball legend and record holder Pete Rose, who walks viewers through pointers for hitting homers without planting baseballs in the stands beforehand.
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.
As one of the founding members of the Big West Conference, Long Beach State boasts a storied history of athletic accomplishments, thrilling 49ers fans with 18 sports teams. Today's deal enables hoops enthusiasts to catch a men's basketball game at Walter Pyramid, where guard Casper Ware energizes the talent-packed roster by sinking nothing-but-net shots and playing the school fight song on a conch shell.