With the cooler weather upon us, everyone from squirrels to baseball players are looking for a warm place to retreat.
Not so sure about the squirrels, but area players can duck into The Batter’s Box to work on their game, whether it be hitting, pitching or fielding.
The 6,500-square-foot facility, located on Columbia Park Trail across from the YMCA in Richland, just went through a remodel and is ready for action.
“We’re just trying to invest back into it for the betterment of the community,” said owner Nate Holdren, who bought the business with his wife Angie 4 1/2 months ago from longtime owner Lenny Ayres.
Holdren just installed 4,000 square feet of FieldTurf — which came off the football field at the University of Montana — to cover up the concrete floor. He also hung new nets and put down new clay batting mats.
“We can move the nets back and you can do fielding drills,” Holdren said. “We can accommodate an entire team. The one big thing here is this is the only softball and baseball facility that is for the novice or competitive athlete that is public.”
And it’s available for date night, which Holdren said happened a couple of weeks ago with a couple looking for something new to do.
With everything from helmets to bats provided — $1 will get you 15 pitches — you can have a ton of fun on a budget.
The Batter’s Box has several pitching machines, and a manual cage if you want to pitch to your players. It offers slow-pitch softball, slow baseball for the Little League crowd, and varied speeds for middle school and high school players.
The high school-level machine is programmed for 85 mph, but can go higher.
“We set it there because most kids in our area don’t see much faster than that,” Holdren said.
There also are two pitching mounds and a softball pitching area.
The Batter’s Box offers personal and team instruction as well as camps. Former Kennewick High and Washington State standout Trek Stemp, now a prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, is offering an infield camp. Session 1 is under way, but there are more to come.
The winter academy also is taking reservations. The 16-week course that begins Wednesday runs $300 and will cover all aspects of baseball. Holdren will get help with the academy from top local high school players, including Trent Sellers (Kennewick), Andrew Vargas (Chiawana) and Blake Loftus (Kennewick).
Holdren, a standout football and baseball player at Richland High School (1990 graduate) and the University of Michigan, was drafted by Colorado in 1993 (16th round) and played five years in the Rockies’ organization.
The 1990 Washington baseball Gatorade Player of the Year, Holdren has more than 20 years of coaching and managing experience. He is the manager of the American Legion Kennewick AAA Outlaws, who advanced to the 2016 World Series.
“My playing days are long in the past,” Holdren said. “My greatest achievement is that 25 of the 30 players I’ve coached the past two summers are getting a chance to play college baseball. Hopefully, there are more to come.”
Memberships also are available for unlimited tokens for the batting cages. A one-year membership runs $29.99 per month, while a six-month membership is $39.99 per month.
The Batter’s Box is open at noon Monday-Friday, at 2 p.m. on Saturday and is closed Sundays, except for camps.
Indoor batting cages are nothing new to the Tri-Cities. Mel Stottlemyre owned one for years before shuttering the doors more than 15 years ago. Ayres opened the Batter’s Box 13 years ago, and sold to Holdren in April.
“Stottlemyres had been closed for a few years before I opened,” Ayers said. “I did buy the equipment from him. Nate is doing what we did in the past, providing a need in the community for offseason coaching. I was in it for developing baseball in the community. It was a good time.”