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Advisory board gets tour of indoor batting cages
by Marsha Burney


The Bladen County Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee members got a special treat at Thursday night’s meeting when Recreation Director Grant Pait gave them a first-hand tour of the new indoor batting cages.


"Grand Slam Batting Cages" opened in May in the former Bladenboro Armory, and Pait decided to hold the Advisory Committee’s meeting in the "new" (or at least new to the Parks and Rec Department) facility this quarter. Pait gave the committee members an update, as well as a tour of the facility, and the members had the opportunity to ask questions. Pait even treated the committee members to a catered meal in the "party room" at the facility.


Noting that there are indoor batting cages in neighboring Robeson and Columbus counties, Pait told the committee that his department "saw a need in Bladen County." He added, "We hoped that a private investor would see the need, too, and start something like this, but that just wasn’t happening." The county put the initial investment into turning the Armory into the batting facility and is recouping that investment by the fees charged for its usage.


"The Parks and Rec Department is in the business of facilitating the recreational needs of the young athletes in our county," Pait said. "We wanted to expose our kids in this county to baseball and softball at a new level."


"Grand Slam" offers four different batting cages – one for softball, one for youth baseball, one for high school baseball, and one multi-purpose pitching cage.

 There’s astro-turf in all four cages (no cleats allowed) along with appropriate pitching machines. There are also helmets and bats at the cages for the athletes. Three part-time employees run the facility.


While "walk-ins" are welcomed at a fee of $5 for a bucket of 50 balls, the best deal is for those who choose memberships to the facility. Membership rates are $35/month for an individual or $50/month for a family, and this allows time in the cages any time the doors are open and there’s an available cage. The facility also has a "party room" for rent for those who wish to host a party in the large meeting room on the side. The party room rates are $125 for a two-hour block and the use of two cages. Additionally, there’s a team rental rate of $40/hour for two cages.
"We currently have 18 members now," Pait said, "and that’s about where we predicted we’d be this early in the facility." To get a membership, folks need to come by the facility (on Fourth Street in Bladenboro) or by the county Recreation Office in Elizabethtown.


"I’ve had so many people my age tell me, ‘Man, I wish we’d had something like this when we were growing up,’" Pait said. "It’s a very nice facility and can serve to help our athletes improve their game."


"Grand Slam" is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 3:30 until 8:00 p.m. It is also open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturdays and from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sundays.


Pait also has plans for little improvements and added features at the batting cages. He said he wanted it to get off the ground good this summer and add little things starting in the fall (like camps for young athletes).


"We want today’s kids to have more opportunities than we had," he said.
Pait added that he had noticed another benefit of the indoor batting cages – it’s bringing the county’s kids together on another level. "I’ve seen a kid from West Bladen working in one cage and a kid from East Bladen in the cage next to him," Pait commented. "They may have known the other kid before, but working in the cages, they get to know each other on a more personal level."


The county rents the Armory from the Town of Bladenboro for $1 a year, and the Mayor of Bladenboro has paid the rent for the county. The county has to pay utilities and keep up the grounds, but Pait said it was an investment that was paying off – both from the financial aspect and from the personal aspect.


"This place gives our kids such an opportunity," he said. "They can be just as good of a baseball or softball player as they want to be by utilizing these batting cages."
For more information about the indoor batting cages, or to make a reservation for a team event, call the Recreation Department in Elizabethtown at 862-6770.

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