Gee, it seems like it was just 2008 when I wrote about one of my childhood haunts being shut down for good.
And just today I found out that the second portion of that childhood, Lakewood Batting Cages, was closing their doors forever – today. Like almost everything noteworthy, I saw the news on their Facebook page and that they would be open until 9pm today, allowing customers to use their facility free of charge.
Of course I had to be there for the last night.
As I wrote in the aforementioned post, the guys at the batting cages were always so good to me and everyone else who wandered in there. About the only thing that has changed from the last time I saw them was that one of the sons, Roy, had passed away. But like his dad and brother, he was super nice, always had a smile on his face, and always made time for everyone. He’ll be missed.
What apparently happened was that the owners of the property, Local Laborer’s Union 507, would not let them renew the lease (details here). But as I was there, negotiations were in progress with an interested party in China. And if a deal is struck the place could be saved, but it just won’t be the same without the Tyler family running it. They are what made the iconic place special, a place where players like Chase Utley used to hone their skills before making it to The Bigs.
Then there’s me, a 44-yard-old dufus who never remotely had the chance or skills to become a big leaguer – but who always found great enjoyment taking some hacks in the 80 MPH cage over the years. Here’s one of my last sessions (direct link since embedding was being funky).
Before I left for the last time, I had to get my picture with Kevin (middle) and his dad, Daryl. (They still own and operate another location.) I love these guys for being who they were and giving back to the community through sponsorship of local teams, donations, and for simply operating a place where kids of all ages could come and learn how to hit a round ball squarely, one of the most difficult feats in all of sports.
The sun has set on Lakewood Batting Cages, and the local baseball community is eternally grateful for having them be a part of their lives for the last 27 years.
Thanks for the memories and best of luck to The Tylers.