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By Brad Spencer
Hitting is a major component of baseball and softball, and it may soon become easier to hone that fundamental for residents of Oak Park.
Motivated by a request from the Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball Association (OPYB/S), at its monthly board meeting last week the Park District of Oak Park considered the installation of a temporary batting cage at Ridgeland Common that will be available for use by OPYB/S members as well as the general community when the park's fields reopen after extensive renovations in April of next year.
Executive Director Jan Arnold said the board will decide after the park's construction is complete and if funds are available.
"We support the proposal of temporary batting cages as long as the money is there at the end of this extensive project," said Arnold. "We will make the ultimate decision in 2014."
The park district currently has no batting cages in its parks, nor are there any batting cage businesses in the community. Ballplayers must travel to either Melrose Park or Lyons to practice hitting at such places like Bat-A-Ball or Stella's, facilities that offer automated pitching.
The proposed batting cages at Ridgeland Common will consist of netting for live, soft toss and a transportable machine pitch. Arnold said the cages would not be a permanent fixture at the park. The cage would go up temporarily from April to August and be installed directly east of the new Ridgeland Common Dog Park.
Bill Sullivan, president of OPYB/S, said batting cages would greatly benefit the association's young ballplayers.
"We are primarily an instructional organization and our goal is to improve the baseball and softball skills of our participants," he said.
"In order to do that, a batting cage or cages in our community would provide us the space and equipment to do repetitions in a controlled environment.
"Adding cages would be a great advancement to participating in Oak Park Youth Baseball and Softball," said Sullivan. "We've been hoping to add cages for some time."
Sullivan said OPYB/S will pay a portion of the installation cost for the cages.
"These cages would be for everyone's use, including for park district programs such as men's adult league softball," he said