Thursday, January 19, 2012

Round 1 and Japanese Batting Centers

One of my new favorite places is Round 1.  The first time I saw one was in 2010, but I wasn't able to go until a couple weeks ago.  There are a lot of them in Japan and according to their website there is one in City of Industry, CA near L.A.  The one we went to had four floors:  the first floor looked like it had slot machines and pachinko, the second floor had an arcade and karaoke, the third floor had a full-sized bowling alley, and the fourth floor was dedicated to spo-cha (sports challenge).  We paid for 3 hours that gave us access to a portion of the arcade, karaoke and spo-cha.  The price was also very reasonable before 4 P.M. for families.  I spent a majority of my time in the spo-cha area, which was half inside and half open air.  They had five batting cages, a pitching challenge machine, mini-golf, basketball courts, tennis courts, ping-pong, volleyball and a bunch of other things too.  I was somewhat concerned about how good the batting cages would be, because it wasn't a baseball specific place, but I was pleasantly surprised.  All of the machines had a LED screen of the pitcher winding-up and throwing and then release the ball as if it had been thrown by the on-screen pitcher.  They were also pretty roomy, with enough space to not hit the side of the cage with my bat on the follow through.  The max speed of any of the machines was 130km and had a setting to change speeds between 130, 110, and 90km.  So there was definitely enough there to keep me challenged and interested for awhile and no limit to how many rounds I could play.

The cage

My nephew punishing the 90km
In general Japanese batting centers are superior to any cages I have ever been to in the U.S.  On my first visit to Japan I went to two batting centers in the Tokyo area, the best one being near Jingu Stadium.  Those had full video screens where you could bat against your favorite NPB pitcher, I remember hitting against Daisuke Matsuzaka and Koji Uehara.  I don't remember how fast the machines were throwing, but I remember some had a setting that allowed them to throw a variety of breaking balls, which were impossible for me to hit.
I have also been to another local batting center in Toyohashi several times.  They have about eight machines, but only one is a LED machine.  One thing they do have is a 150km machine.  It has something similar to an ice cream scoop that holds the ball and whips it at you at 150, and if it's not 150 it's damn close.  You definitely want to wear a helmet for that one.

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