The days are longer, the sun is higher, and UNC’s spring semester classes end a week from today. Spring has certainly sprung. That said, for all the pansies, peonies, and pollen, according to Duke Ellington’s 1931 classic, “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing (doo-wah, doo-wah, doo-way, etc.).
While jazz musicians can’t go out a purchase a good ear for pitch and rhythm, the rest of the world get can into the spirit of spring for the cost of a few swings at local batting cages and driving ranges, which produce more guaranteed hits than Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman put together.
While the true heartbeat of jazz lies in a high hat and a snare drum, the soundtrack of spring begins with the percussive rhythm of bats on balls at local cages.
Located at 100 Northern Park Drive at Chapel Hill’s Homestead Park, the Chapel Hill Park and Recreation’s own Skate Park and Batting Cage complex overlooks the Homestead Aquatics Center, offering six open-air baseball and softball pitching stations with varying speeds.
The cages are currently open during the same hours as the adjacent Aquatic Center: from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily.
Pitching machines deliver 25 pitches upon activation with a token, which costs $2 for residents and $3 for non-residents.
“The tokens are available at the Homestead Aquatics Center next door,” Athletics specialist Mike Troutman said, “so you can just go in and purchase your tokens there, and use them from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the skate park batting cages, and we have lights out there.”
Troutman added that the cages only close in the event of steady rain.
“If it’s just a light rain, we stay open,” he said, “but if it’s a heavy rain and it just gets too wet or if we have standing water out there, we’d go ahead and close.”
Helmets and bats are available onsite for use, though Troutman said those looking for a specific size or weight may want to bring their own equipment.
In the event of adverse weather, however, there are a couple notable indoor options where it’s always a beautiful day.
About 10 minutes south of Chapel Hill and a few hundred yards north of Northwood High School on Route 15-501, Base Hits indoor batting cages in Pittsboro remains a hit among baseball and softball enthusiasts alike. The facility offers instructors, four full-length cages, two tee cages, dirt mounds, and the latest training aides, Base Hits’ website (www.basehitsnc.com) stated.
A Chatham County baseball / softball resource for a decade, Base Hits boasts a staff who is passionate about passing on tips and skills, team rates, discounts, and a pro shop with top-name baseball and softball bats, gloves, and other products. A balcony area onsite is also suitable for birthday parties, team outings, and other events.
Current hours are 4 – 8 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1 – 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information or to check on wait times, call (919) 545 – BAT1 (2281).
Just 30 minutes west of the Triangle, Partin Performance Training Center (www.partinperformance.com), co-owned by Chapel Hill High School coach Lee Land, offers 6,000 square feet of indoor space for all kinds of training, including baseball hitting and pitching, plus a full weight room, two 70-foot cages, and couple portable mounds. Visit the website for more information on hours and prices.
Tee it up
With the closing of several local golf practice facilities—notably the longstanding Durham Golf Center on Durham’s Garrett Road—duffers are descending on golf course driving ranges to get the kinks out before hitting the links.
Closest to home, UNC’s Finley Golf Course offers a state-of-the-art practice facility, open to the public seven days a week. Located on Finley Golf Course Road, the venerable UNC-owned facility has been an eastern Chapel Hill landmark, and an expansive driving range sits just southeast of the club house.
“During this time of the year, it’s open from 7 a.m. until 7 at night,” Finley Head Golf Professional Mike Wilkinson said. “When we get into the (May and June), that will expand out to 8 o’clock at night.” Wilkinson added that costs are $5 for a bucket of 45 balls.
The mats are used from Monday through Thursday, the Finley website (“www.uncfinley.com/driving-range/”) said. Golfers hit off grass tees Fridays through Sundays.
Sand bunker placements around the practice greens give good shot visualization, so golfers can theorize an entire round of play right from the practice range.
For more information, call Finley Golf Course at (919) 962-2349.
While the tee and turf practice facility at Occoneechee Country Club (1500 Lawrence Road, Hillsborough) sits right by the course’s first tee, it’s also open to the public.
“We’re open from 7 a.m. until 7:45 or 8 p.m. – whenever it gets dark, club manager Scott Ray said. “We could probably get around 15 people out there at a time on our grass tees, and we’ve also got another 10 mat stations, but we don’t do both at the same time.”
Ray said buckets cost $4 (40 balls), $7 (80 balls), and $10 (120 balls).
For more information or to set up lessons with pro Jim Schwab , visit the Occoneechee Country Club website at “occoneechee.com” or call (919) 732-3435.
So that’s a quick primer on just a few area resources where you can hit away. So grab a bat or a golf bag and “get that swing,” or to borrow from both Nike and the Duke and “Just doo(-wah) it.”