With the recent opening of two new softball batting cages inside Payne Whitney Gymnasium, the Yale softball team will no longer struggle with limited facility availability when working on its pitching and hitting during the winter months.
The two batting cages, which were built inside a basketball court on the fifth floor of Payne Whitney, were completed and unveiled to the softball team on Dec. 21. Funding for the project came largely from a $10,000 award the Yale Softball Association won last year during the Drive for Elis Challenge, a yearly competition among alumni donors. The athletic department also contributed to the funding, allowing the team to acquire a second cage. Softball players interviewed all highlighted the benefits of having important indoor facilities on campus.
“The cages will allow us to hit and pitch without commuting, which could mean that we won’t need to have 6 a.m. practices anymore,” center fielder and utility player Camille Weisenbach ’17 said. “They will also be available for us to use on our own to get extra reps in whenever we want, which is a new and welcome luxury.”
The new cages will be used both before and during the team’s spring season. In previous winter offseasons, the team typically held practices at Coxe Cage, Yale’s indoor track, where there are also batting cages. Because Coxe Cage’s indoor spaces are shared by multiple varsity teams during the winter, with priority given to the men’s and women’s track and field teams, the softball team often needed to hold practice early in the mornings.
In addition to increased availability and a closer proximity to campus, the new batting cages are larger than the ones located at Coxe Cage, pitcher and infielder Francesca Casalino ’18 said. Unlike the old cages, the new cages are large enough to accommodate pitching practice.
Casalino added that when not in use, the cages can be retracted to the ceiling so the gymnasium can be used for other teams as well.
“Before the batting cages, we were confined to the limited space in the outer parts of Coxe Cage,” Casalino said. “So, there was not much room and space to have only about six girls hit at a time without it being unsafe. For pitching, we would have to throw on the inside of the track area, which made live pitching and hitting impossible, as well as, if a ball got away, it would get stuck underneath the track.”
Because the baseball team already has its own batting cages inside Yale Field, baseball players will not be using the batting cages at Payne Whitney, utility player Rachel Paris ’17 said. She added that the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams will also have access to the cages for shooting practice during the winter.
Although no official practices have been held at the batting cages yet, multiple team members got a chance to try them out in the Dec. 21 reveal. Director of Athletics Tom Beckett, who was also present, said the new softball training area represents “new opportunities” for the Yale softball team.
Thus far, players have used the batting cages only for individual practices. When team practices begin on Feb. 1, the team will practice in Payne Whitney twice a week with hitting drills and live pitching, Paris said.
“We will definitely be doing a lot of live pitching, which is vital for us,” outfielder Sydney Glover ’17 said. “The cages are wide enough that everyone can safely pitch and hit. In addition to that, we will be able to do tee drills, front toss and any other hitting drills the coaches feel like we should do.”
In addition to practicing at the cages, the team will continue to practice defensive drills at Coxe Cage and travel to a bubble-roof facility in Branford for full-field scrimmages, Casalino said.