- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2007

The return of baseball season is not just for the major leagues. Anyone can hear the crack of the bat and watch the ball go flying at a batting cage.

That’s why area batting cages attract all types: former players, current high school players, Little Leaguers, minor-league prospects, even young children and their parents looking for some outdoor fun, no matter how many times they swing and miss.

Regular batting practice, of course, can improve one’s accuracy. Balls come at batters at custom speeds and levels, and taking your turn can mean getting a chance to hit dozens of balls.

“With a pitching machine, you can get consistency,” says Carlos Reyes, an 18-year-old pitcher for Briar Woods High School in Ashburn. Mr. Reyes works part-time at Dulles Golf Center and Sports Park, which has outdoor batting cages. “You can work on your form. My teammates and I come out all the time. We do indoor cages when it is snowing; otherwise, we try and get as much outdoor practice as we can.”

At Dulles Golf Center, different cages mean different speeds. Visitors can choose superfast — a pro-level pitch at more than 90 miles per hour — as well as a 45 mph baseball, a 30 mph baseball, a 35 mph baseball or an 18 mph softball.

Batters get 10 pitches per token. Tokens cost $1 each, six tokens for $5 and 13 tokens for $10. Although the sports center is open year-round, the cages are open only if the temperature is above 50 degrees, so plan accordingly if the spring weather is being fickle.

While outdoor cages have long been a standard of recreation centers and minigolf operations, the newest thing for the baseball enthusiast is indoor baseball. Extra Innings Indoor Baseball and Softball Training Center recently opened in Upper Marlboro. Owners Frank and Susan Kosa are baseball enthusiasts, and co-owner Mike Miller is an assistant baseball coach at Northern High in Calvert County.

“I am an Orioles fan; my husband is a Yankees fan,” Mrs. Kosa says.

Extra Innings opened in February and features 11 indoor tunnels. Eight of the tunnels are multipurpose and can be reconfigured for teams to practice defense as well as hitting, she says. Pitching tunnels feature a mound; pitchers can throw to a catcher, a net or a live batter. The multipurpose tunnels usually are reserved in advance by teams.

Three of the tunnels feature timer-operated automated batting cages, and visitors can choose softball or baseball. Batters can choose from four speeds and adjust the height of the pitch to their strike zone. The cages are open to walk-ins during regular hours (weekdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Cost to use the cages is $12 for 15 minutes (more than 100 pitches).

Extra Innings also has birthday party packages for young baseball enthusiasts. The most deluxe is the Hall of Fame Party ($195), which features a pizza party and an area in which to have a Wiffle ball tournament.

Here are some other area places to practice your swing:

Virginia

Diamond Sports Training, 45685 Oakbrook Court, Suite 110, Sterling. Indoor batting cages, $20 per half-hour for one player. Extra player $5. Click on https://diamondsportstraining.com or call 703/430-7011.

Dulles Golf Center and Sports Park, 21593 Jesse Court, Sterling. One token (10 pitches) $1; six tokens for $5; 13 tokens for $10. Click on www.dulles golfcenter.com or call 703/404-8800.

The Dugout, 13241 Braddock Road, Clifton. One token (14 pitches) $2; four for $5; nine for $10. Bat rental 50 cents. Call 703/818-3331.

Woody’s Golf Range, 11801 Leesburg Pike, Herndon. One token (20 pitches) $2. Click on www.woodys golf.com or call 703/430-8337.

Cameron Run Regional Park, 4001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria. One token (16 pitches) $1; six for $5. Click on www.nvrpa.org/cameron.html or call 703/960-5714.

Occoquan Regional Park, 9751 Ox Road, Lorton. One token (16 pitches) $1; six for $5. Click on www.nvrpa.org/occoquan.html or call 703/690-2121.

Upton Hill Regional Park, 6060 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. One token (16 pitches) $1; six for $5. Click on www.nvrpa.org/uptonhill.html or call 703/534-3437.

Maryland

Extra Innings, 401 Prince George’s Blvd., Suite D, Upper Marlboro. Indoor cages. $12 for 15 minutes. Click on www.extrainnings- uppermarlboro.com or call 301/430-7322.

Night Hawk Golf Center, 814 Route 3 South, Gambrills. One token (15 pitches) $1; six tokens for $5; 42 tokens for $30. Click on www.nighthawkgolfcenter.com or call 410/721-9349.

Laurel Golf and Recreation Center, 9801 Fort Meade Road, Laurel. One token (20 pitches) $2; four for $7. Half-hour (300 pitches) $35. Click on www.laurelgolfcenter.com or call 301/725-4646.

Maryland Baseball Academy, 18966 Bonanza Way, Gaithersburg. Indoor cages. One token (15 pitches) $2; three for $5; seven for $10; 15 for $20. Click on www.marylandbaseball academy.com or call 301/977-1450.

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