There are no strikeouts at the batting cages. It’s the perfect place to practice or a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Taylor Treadway, a sophomore at University School, stepped into the fast pitch softball cage earlier this week to begin the transition from basketball to softball.
“I usually just come here at the beginning of the season to get ready,” said Taylor, who plays third base for the University High softball team. “Speed is the biggest help. You can switch from 50 to 60 (mph) and you have to get your timing right.”
While Taylor and other players fed tokens into the machines to make them start tossing pitches, Batters Up Batting Cages owner Rick Sangid smiled at the sight of so many customers this early in the year.
“I’m always excited about the season starting up,” he said. “It’s fun to watch the kids and we’ve seen them when they were real little and now they’ve grown up.”
Batters Up, located at Winged Deer Park, 4137 Bristol Highway, was able to open 14 days in February, which is very rare, Sangid said.
On a typical winter day, 20 people may come to use the cages, but a recent softball tournament drew about 100 hitters in one day. Sangid says softball and baseball players take advantage of the facility through the week, but families keep the cages full on the weekends.
Sangid has a positive outlook on the coming season, even though the last couple of years have been slow. As trends continue to change, he’s looking for a revival of the sport, which may already be happening in softball.
“The girls are outworking the boys right now,” Sangid said. “It used to be that it was all Little League and all these cages were full and now during peak time, there’s a line for fast pitch softball.”
Perhaps Taylor has the right idea in trying to perfect her swing in the cage before facing a real pitcher later this month.
“It improves you,” she said. “You have to practice outside of practice or you’re never going to get any better.”
Batters Up is in its 12th year of business and is the only outdoor batting cage in the area, Sangid said. The sink hole turned batting cages is a partnership between Sangid and the city of Johnson City, which allows him to use the land.
“It’s not something you can make a lot of money at but it’s something that’s going to help the community,” Sangid said.
There’s one fast pitch cage at Batters Up, two slow pitch softball cages and four baseball machines that each throw at a different speed. Sangid says they’re the same machines the Atlanta Braves train with and are positioned higher above the ground so batters feel like someone’s throwing down to them from the mound.
“That makes it a true training facility for people that really want to get into it,” Sangid said.
One of those diehard baseball players is Josh White of Erwin. He hit a few rounds in the 70 mph cage this week and has his mind set on trying out for the minor leagues this year.
“I was a little bit rusty out here today, but ya know, everything’s a work in progress,” he said.
Batter’s Up Batting Cages are now open seven days a week. Hours are 2-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday and 1-6 p.m. on Sunday. Sangid says hitters should call ahead at 283-9633 because the facility can’t open if the surface is wet.
Hitters must wear shirt and shoes and no cleats may be worn in the cages. Helmets, bats and hitting gloves are provided, but people may bring their own. A $1 token buys 16 pitches, or for $5, hitters get six tokens and 96 pitches. Unless someone reserves a cage for 30 minutes or an hour, the cages are available on a first-come-first-serve basis.