The perfect swing takes practice, but the local batting cages are always packed. If you are short on space, a batting tunnel lets you bring practice into your own backyard. A standard cage is about 70 feet long, but you can get tunnels as short as 45 feet to take advantage of a smaller area. Here are five steps to installing a batting cage.
#1: Clear the Site
Weeds or grass growing around or inside the tunnel are difficult to keep cut, so you want to start with a cleared, level site. Your contractor will completely remove the turf down to the subsoil, and then level and grade the site so water doesn't pool inside the tunnel.
#2: Install the Flooring
You don't want concrete or hard flooring materials that can cause the ball to bounce, but you will need some type of permanent floor material so grass doesn't invade the tunnel. Your two main choices are:
- Artificial turf or grass
- Acrylic cushion floor system
Artificial turf is the most cost effective option. It comes in standard green or just about any other color you desire. The turf is installed over a layer of crushed stone aggregate, which allows for drainage and blocks plants from invading the site.
Acrylic cushion floors are more expensive, but they also offer superior durability and longevity. They consist of an asphalt base covered with several layers of cushion material, topped with an acrylic cover.
Whichever flooring option you choose, make it a couple of feet wider and longer than the batting tunnel so grass and weeds don't grow too closely to the cage.
#4: Anchor the Tunnel
A permanent net or chain-link batting tunnel will need securely anchored; otherwise, it may take flight or collapse in a high wind. Anchoring a tunnel is similar to installing any fence – post holes are dug and the posts are cemented in place. To avoid damage to the flooring and ensure a seamless installation between posts and floor, your contractor will likely dig the post holes before he completes the floor construction.
#5: Add the Extras
The tunnel is up and it's time to practice that swing. A small pitching machine that's adjustable to the current skill level of the batter will complete your setup. You may also want a batting target for the end of the tunnel. Don't forget the safety equipment! Batting helmets are must. You can add a gear stand outside the tunnel for helmets, bats, gloves and other equipment. Enforce the safety rules – only one batter in the tunnel at a time, and helmets must be worn before entering.
If the idea of a batting tunnel competes with your visions of the perfect backyard, get creative with your landscaping once it's installed. You can plant hedges to camouflage or the cage, or cover it in a quick growing vine. Contact a batting tunnel dealer like Upper Midwest Athletic Construction for more information.