Sports

Batting cages closing?

Like a hitter in a batting slump, a fielder with a cursed glove or a pitcher who can't find the strike zone, the Sequim Batting Cages company is struggling.

Co-owners Dan Perry and Kevin Royall figure they have about one make-or-break season.

"We need 100, 150 (new facility users) by the end of January or our doors are going to close," Perry said last week.

The nonprofit cages facility at 775 W. Washington St., next to Hollywood Video, caters to ballplayers young and old, offering annual memberships, occasional hitting leagues and tournaments, and individual pitching and hitting lessons.

Perry and Royall have dropped annual membership rates from $300 when the cages first opened to $200 and now to $100 for one person, $175 for two family members or $200 for three or more.

"We think that's a reasonable price," Perry said, "for a place that's open 11 months out of the year."

When Perry and Royall, both Sequim-area coaches who mentor players on the Sequim Baseball summer league, decided to open the cages, they figured the batting cages would go over great with players from Little League ages up to high school and beyond.

And while they see a steady stream of preps players come through the doors (including Port Angeles-area ballplayers), the younger crowd hasn't filled out the facility enough to keep Sequim Batting Cages financially stable.

"We need Little Leaguers," Perry said. "That, when we started this place, is what we were counting on."

"We tried some (hitting) leagues, but everyone's busy this time of year," Royall said.

Royall said he and Perry applied for several grants but got very little and now are behind in rent for the facility. Only a generous and forgiving landlord has kept the business open, Perry said.

The two say the batting cages have made a difference in local ballplayers' hitting, and Dave Ditlefsen, Sequim High School's varsity baseball coach, concurs.

"The batting cages have done wonders for the high school program," Ditlefsen said. "I've seen a noticeable improvement in our players' hitting abilities and we've won games because of the extra work our kids have put in. It is a wonderful facility for the community to call their own."

Sgt. Dave Campbell of the Sequim Police Department said the cages offer a big boost to the community, and not just for sports and recreation.

"As a veteran of the

Sequim Police Department for the past 15 years, I cannot begin to justifiably express the need for extracurricular activities for our area youth," Campbell wrote in a letter to the Sequim Gazette. "Sequim Baseball and the batting cages are a local, nonprofit organization that provides a centralized place for kids of all ages (as well as adults) to participate in a healthy, team-building and positive sport. Dan and Kevin have worked 'round the clock to provide quality instruction and services at very minimal cost to participants. I consider their establishment to not only be a good resource for increasing activity of our area youth, but a necessity."

Sequim Batting Cages opened in November 2007. At the time, Perry said he could run the business with a $30,000 start, building on memberships and an annual dinner/auction that funds both the cages and summer league team. But the first year missed the financial mark and last year the cages brought in $8,000, about half of what Perry said would make the facility financially viable.

"We've got a lot of good athletes in Sequim but it's not going to happen (success on the field) if you play baseball only two months a year," Royall said. "The sad part is the kids who aren't athletes (who use the cages). If we're not here, they're not playing baseball."

For more information, call Sequim Batting Cages at 683-3357.



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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