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 www.battingcagesinc.com 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!