Sunday, April 30, 2006
Going batty at Northwick Park
Today, after seeing the weather brighten up, I decided to head off to try out Northwick Park Golf club's batting cages. http://www.northwickpark.com/playgolf-northwickpark-baseball2.htm
I had been told by Manjiv, that they were worth a visit, so I went trekking the whole way across London on the trusty Bakerloo line. Once there, after a short walk from South Kenton tube station, I discovered that they have a really great set up. There are 3 baseball cages (1x Fast, 1x Medium and 1x Slow), and most importantly for us softballers, 5 softball cages (3x slow pitch, 1x medium pitch and 1x fast pitch)
The main building was reminiscent of the 'hub' in Regents park (where Andy, Alison and I did our Softball umpiring course) and inside I stumped up my money to buy 5 tokens. I even managed to get 10% discount for mentioning 'Baseball Softball UK', and signed up for a permanent discount card.
The way it works is each token is used to feed the machines in any of the batting cages (I wimped out and headed for the slow pitch softball one). Once inserted, a button is pressed, and then you have 10 seconds before the first of your 15 balls is launched at you. I must admit the first one did take me by surprise, but from then on I did do fairly well in cracking a good percentage of balls into left field (mostly with line drives or ground balls). Speaking with an experienced softball player in the next cage, he told me to try and take the ball as late as possible over the plate, so as to enable me to hit into right field. After taking the advice, I started hitting them straight back from where they had come from, but eventually I did manage to pull a few to right field.
The other thing to mention is that the machines don't use proper softballs, or even indoor ones. They launch hard, dimpled plastic ones, that although feel strange at first, are still substancial enough to jar your arms, if you miss hit one.
After exhausting my first lot of tokens, as it goes pretty quickly when you get into it, the bug had definitely bitten, and so I felt the need to count up my change and get another couple of tokens. By then the other cages were filling up, with everyone from dad's and their children to amateur baseball players, to professional looking American's who were ripping the balls into the back fence with regular aplomb. I stood and watched the someone in the 'Fast' baseball cage in wonderment as each ball rocketed out of the machine at great speed, whacking into the backstop mat, before the poor baseballer had a chance to wave his bat at it. I think eventually after a couple of tokens, the guy was getting a nick on a ball or two, but I thought that he should probably try his luck with a 'Medium' speed machine at least to get his morale up.
Before leaving, I was asked by one of the staff there to sign a petition to keep the batting cages from being removed by the local council. I signed and would recommend anyone reading this who is thinking about going, to sign it (see me for a form). It is such a great resource and it would be a real shame to lose it so soon after discovering that it existed.