Batting cages available for youth players | ParkRecord.com

Batting cages available for youth players

When Brent Milner moved to Park City, he was told he’d need to take his son to Salt Lake City during the winter to find suitable practice facilities.

But Milner didn’t want to have to drive down to the valley just for batting cage and bullpen sessions he wanted something in Park City that could serve as a temporary practice facility for both the Park City High School team and something the Park City Avalanche youth squads could use for light winter practices.

Sure, Basin Recreation has a couple batting cages in the Fieldhouse and a great indoor practice field. But, because of the high quality of the field, the demand for practice time for all sorts of sports needing to escape the cold and snow was through the roof, Milner said.

"Basin Rec just has so many demands on their time from the non-outdoors winter sports," he said. "It’s hard to get cage time other than on Sunday mornings."

So Milner and a group of dads decided to try to find a suitable space for a supplemental practice area.

"We sort of approached it from a different perspective than what had been done in the past," he said. "We went out and contacted the various landlords who had extra space looking for a place to put at least one [batting cage] up, if not two or three."

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Thanks to Gary Crandall, who owns the Newpark Town Center, Milner and his crew got the space they needed below the spot where 60 condos will eventually stand [30 of which have already been sold]. Now, there are three batting cages, two long enough for full-length pitching sessions, located across the walkway from Jupiter Bowl.

"He’s in the process of doing condos above," Milner said. "He was very kind and said, ‘Look, I have this space and it’s very unlikely anyone is going to want to go in under this particular spot while we’re doing the construction. You guys can have it if you get it permitted.’ So we went to the county and got a permit, and they granted us 180 days, which got us through the winter season."

Then, it was onto the construction phase.

"It was completely raw we put up all of the lights and all of the nets and the stringing," Milner said. "We went out for donations for the turf and the nets whatever we could get. The turf actually came from the University of Pennsylvania. They were putting in a new field and the guys who were tearing it up basically gave us a very, very good price getting it here. So, we’ve got real turf, not something that’s going to be makeshift."

What drove Milner to spearhead this project? It all comes down to science.

While living in New York, he noticed how the baseball players who played hockey during the winter took longer to get back into baseball form.

"They’d take the entire winter off and then they’d come back and it took them a good four weeks to get back to where they were in the fall," he said.

Park City being a world-class ski town, he noticed some similarities with what he saw in New York. He started looking into why younger kids needed longer to get back to midseason form.

"I started studying why kids’ skills deteriorate on a pre-adolescent basis and not a post-adolescent basis," he said. "When we practice something over and over, we create electric circuitry in the brain. Post-adolescents, where we have testosterone, that circuitry gets wrapped in something called myelin. That myelin hardens, so that’s why you or I could take three years off and then come back for a softball game and hit the ball again maybe not as hard as we used to, but we can always hit, we can always field, we can always throw."

That’s not the case for pre-adolescent boys, however.

"We’ve had that myelin harden around all those reps we’ve done," Milner said. "On a pre-adolescent basis, there is no myelin, or if there is, it’s loosely and lightly created. So it doesn’t harden around that circuitry."

Based on the readings Milner did about myelin, he decided there should be a place boys and girls could hone their baseball and softball skills during the long Park City winters. But, don’t get the idea that Milner thinks his son and his son’s teammates should be practicing 24/7.

"I’m not necessarily an advocate of kids playing a sport intensely year-round," he said. "But in a muscle-memory-driven sport like baseball, I am an advocate of a kid throwing during the winter, hitting during the winter, fielding in the winter just to keep that circuitry going. Because, until they go through adolescence, there just isn’t that experience needed to build myelin."

For more information on booking a time in the Newpark Training Facility, or setting up private lessons, go to parkcitybaseball.org.