Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Maintaining Your Equipment in the Off Season

When the weather outside is frightful, batting cages, pitching machines and other baseball equipment aren't likely to be getting the amount of attention they might in the warmer months. While you are counting down the days to spring training, there are some things you can be (and should be) looking out for to help extend the longevity of your investments.


When it's windy out, many people don't realize the impact this can have on their batting cage set up. A batting cage net is mostly holes and air, so you might think wind can pass right through. Nope! When conditions are right,  that net might as well be a sail. If the net is blowing around, it will likely lead to damage on the framework and/or net hanging system.

The safest option is to simply take nets down in bad weather. Most companies that sell nets don't supply any sort of storage container for the net, so you might have to get creative. One of the best solutions we have heard is using a large garbage bin. A garbage bin typically has wheels, making transportation easy, and a lid to keep water or anything else from getting in.

If taking the net completely down is not an option, heavy-duty ground stakes are available to help keep everything in place. If installed properly, these stakes can work incredibly well. We ran some unofficial strength tests on these stakes to see how well they hold. You can see the video for that here.


Snow Piling up on a Wire Fence

Wind is not the only weather related cause for concern. Snow can also wreak havoc. Similar to wind, because nets have so many holes, many people don't realize how much snow can pile up on a net. This can put a lot of extra weight on the net causing damage to the hanging system, or the net itself. The picture at left is not of a net, but of a wire fence, but it illustrates how much snow can pile up on a small surface like netting. We always recommend taking the net down if snow is in the forecast.


Odd as it may seem, we have heard of rodents, squirrels, rabbits, and deer having quite the taste for netting. We haven't figured out why, but it's been known to happen. If you ever find holes in your nets where the break points are clean cuts (opposed to a frayed cut), you likely have a hungry critter near by. When nets break due to wear, the break points usually look frayed. If you live in an area where you can leave the batting cage up year round, we recommend tying the bottom of the net up so it is at least off the ground. This might not keep you protected from squirrels and other climbing types, but it at least prevents ground dwellers from making a midnight snack of your $1,000+ batting cage net.

Inspect for Holes

Prior to using your net for the first time this season, you should thoroughly inspect it for holes or breaks in the netting. Whether it's from critters or simply from normal wear and tear, all nets start to deteriorate eventually. Think of a batting cage net like your car tires. Even if it's the highest quality, most expensive tire, if you're driving on them, they are going to wear down and that's just the way it goes. If your net is brand new and starting to get holes in it, contact the manufacturer. Sometimes manufacturing errors can cause premature wear. If you do find holes in your net, it is important to get them taken care of before use. The last thing you want is an escaped ball damaging property or worse yet-injuring someone nearby. While we can't stop normal wearing, there are ways to ease the pain of having to replace your whole net. Depending on the amount of damage, patch kits are available. These are usually just pieces of net a few feet wide that you just tie on the damaged net to cover the hole.

If you have no holes yet but are looking for a preventative measure, consider purchasing a flat panel. Flat panels vary in size, but you can usually get one big enough to cover an entire end of the cage. The area behind the batter usually takes the most wear, so adding an extra layer of netting there can really extend the life of the cage net. Plus, it's way easier (and cheaper) to replace an $80 flat panel after a couple years as opposed to the whole cage net later on.


Inspect your Balls

No, we're not talking about a self examination. One of the fastest ways to tear up a pitching machine wheel is rough or irregular edges on machine balls. Prior to firing up your pitching machine for the first time this season, check each machine ball and get rid of any showing signs of extreme wear. Also, give both the pitching machine and machine balls a good cleaning before use. Doing this will maximize performance and will help extend the life of your pitching machine. 


That's it sports fans! If you're already doing these things, kudos to you. If you're not, you better start! Don't waste a minute of precious practice time messing with faulty equipment. Taking proper care and maintenance of your equipment ahead of time will help you get the most out of your investments and provide a smoother practice session. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A How-To Guide on Buying a Batting Cage

So you want to buy a batting cage. Where do you start? While you might think netting is netting, there are a few things to consider before making the investment.
  1. Ask First!

    First of all, if you are planning a backyard batting cage, check laws & regulations for your area. Some cities and homeowners associations either do not allow backyard cages, require permits, or have height requirements. You might also consider asking for your neighbors approval. While being neighborly isn't in the rulebook, if you don't, you may end up with an unwanted war on your hands.
  2. Sizes

    Determine how much space you have to work with. Standard batting cage sizes can range from 20' in length up to 70' or 80' lengths. Obviously, smaller cages work better for smaller spaces, but bigger cages allow you to get more use out of your batting cage. With a bigger net, you can divide one cage into smaller smaller sections for different drill stations. You can do this using cage dividers or flat panels. If you want to have your batting cage double as a pitching practice area, you are going to want at least a 55' cage for little league, but once your pitcher reaches high school the distance from mound to plate goes to 60'6". A 70' cage will allow for some "growing room". In our experience, no one has ever complained that their cage was too big, unless they measured wrong and it doesn't fit in their yard.

    If you are planning on using a batting cage frame (with poles and corner fittings), make sure you know if the frame is bigger than the net, and if so, make sure you account for the entire cage footprint. Some companies cage designs have the net on the outside of the frame, so the length of the net is the length of the whole cage. However, other companies sell a 55' batting cage package, where 55' is the length of the net and the poles are positioned about two feet outside of the net. If you have exactly 56' to work with and you order a 55' package, you're in for one large headache.

    While we are on the subject, let's talk about the two options listed above a little more - should poles go on the outside or the inside? A batting cage with poles on the inside is usually easier to install. Erect the frame, throw the net over the top and you're done. On the other hand, this leaves poles exposed on the inside of the cage and can lead to ricochet balls. This can put batters in danger. This might not be a problem MOST of the time, but it has happened. Not to mention, repeated ricochets will damage your poles. Nets that hang on the inside of the framework should have some space (about 1 ft) between the net and the pole. Often times DIYers will pull their net tight to the pole because it looks nice. If you don't allow your net some space to move freely, you create more points of wear and your net will start to breakdown faster. 
  3. Can You Handle it? Can Your Yard?

    So you're willing to shell out the cash, and willing to go through the installation process, but are you ready to tear up your yard? Most batting cages require concrete or cement installation to keep the poles in place, but not all of them. Trapezoid batting cages are often free standing and don't require any permanent fixtures. This is a great option if you aren't quite ready to permanently dedicate 980 square feet of yard space to something your son or daughter might grow out of in a couple years. These type of cages also allow you to take the cage down when the season ends. However, if the cage is going to get a lot of use (for a public park or for team use), you'll probably want to go with an in-ground type of installation.
  4. Materials

    Let's get to the nitty-gritty. What's the best material to get for a batting cage? This is debatable in the industry, but really it boils down to where you plan on using your batting cage and how the manufacturer makes the net. If you've got an indoor set-up, you've got some freedom in this department. I see quite a few people coming to our site looking specifically for "indoor batting cage nets". While this is valid, as maybe they are working on an indoor batting cage facility, you don't need an indoor-specific batting cage net. If it works outdoors, it will certainly hold up indoors. Most of the time "indoor nets" simply mean they do not contain the features to protect the netting in an outdoor setting. The important thing here is the material. For example, nylon is one of the strongest materials you can get. However, depending on how it's made, the even strongest of materials can fall short outside in the elements. One of the biggest culprits in net deterioration is the sun. UV rays cause netting to get brittle and break down. To get around this, manufacturers often try and add some sort of UV protection to the manufacturing process. Some places simply coat the netting with a UV inhibitor. This works fine for a while, but since it is only coating the outside, over time the protection gets knocked or worn off. A better option is when the inhibitors are actually extruded into the very fibers that make the net. Another issue is moisture. While nylon may be a strong material, it's in its very nature to be absorbent. If your net is absorbing moisture, it will start to rot. If you live in a coastal or rainy climate, you should consider polyethylene netting, which doesn't absorb moisture.
  5. Twine Size

    The biggest factors here are the age of the players using the cage and how long you want the net to last. If budget isn't an issue, go with the biggest twine size you can find, and it will work for whoever uses it. Since budget probably IS an issue, you can find the twine size that will work well, but that will also keep your wallet (and s/o) happy.
  6. Knotted vs. Knotless, Diamond vs. Square

    Okay, so you've decided on your material and twine size, now let's talk about the the "net-hang". A lot of this is simply aesthetics, but some if it isn't. If it is hung on the diamond, the lines on the net will not be straight or run parallel to your poles. Square-hung netting does, so it has a cleaner look. Diamond mesh reduces the amount of waste during the production process, so it is usually less expensive, but there are some down sides. The net pattern causes the batting cage to pull in from the sides. On top of that, batting cages with a diamond mesh will usually have poorer seams, because the rope border has to be sewn diagonally across the meshes, leaving an irregular net border to sew to.Square mesh is typically more expensive to produce, because the ends must be trimmed off. Although it can take more material to hang a batting cage on the square, the finished product is significantly better. A cage hung on the square will open straighter and all four bottom edges will be more likely to reach the ground. the edges will be neater, and the border will naturally follow the edge of the netting.
Well, that should be enough to help you in your decision making process. Come visit us at and view our own selection of batting cage nets. If we missed something and you still have any questions, feel free to give us a call. We are here to help!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Soft Toss

Soft toss drills are more than just a way to warm up. When done correctly, soft toss is one of the most effective way to work on swing mechanics. Today, we are just going to cover the basics. There are lots of variations of soft toss drills that make it a little more interesting, but we are just going to cover proper technique.

The coach positions themselves on the swing side of the player, in front of the batter and either on a knee or sitting on a bucket. Being in front of the batter is important. It's the batter's job to hit the ball, but if you are throwing directly from the side, the point of contact will be too far back and your hitter might develop a late or slow swing. Some people don't like soft toss drills because the ball is thrown from the side rather than straight on like in live pitching, but if done correctly, the point of contact should be the same.

The Toss
First, show the batter the ball before its tossed. This helps with hand eye coordination. Make sure they are watching the ball from the time you show it to them to the time they make contact. When you are getting ready to toss, allow your hand to drop to your side to emulate a real pitch. Keep it light and easy. The purpose of soft toss isn't to defeat the batter. It's all about working on the batter's swing, stance, and timing.  If you go too fast, the batter will develop bad habits. Keep the tosses in the hitting zone. Don't let your batter swing at anything too far in front, or too far behind.

While one player bats, the rest of the team could take the opportunity to field, but if they are working on other drills, there are several products available to make soft toss more efficient. A soft toss catch net keeps all the balls in one place so you don't have to go hunt them down. There are also soft toss machines that work great for players who want to practice at home but don't have friends or family chomping at the bit to toss for them. You can load them up with 10-14 balls which are then tossed at about 5 second intervals. The lighter the ball, the higher they will be tossed, so you can experiment with baseballs, softballs, tennis balls, or wiffle balls.

What to Watch for
Soft toss drills give coaches the opportunity to get up close and personal with a batters swing. Take advantage and be on the look out for good mechanics. Are they opening their hips up? Are they pivoting their back foot? How is their grip on the bat? Also be on the look out for dipping shoulders or "wood chopping" swings.

Got any other soft toss drills you'd like to share? Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Batting Cages Inc. got a blog!

Hi! Have we met? No? Well let us introduce ourselves...

At BCI, we love the game as much as you do. In addition to being one of the leading batting cage suppliers in the country, we also know a thing or two about proper mechanics, drills, and training equipment, so what better way to share our knowledge than with a blog? It might take us a bit to get off and running, but we invite you to check back regularly for the latest news, coolest products, and more!