The Manchester Outlaws Batting Cage and Pitching Machine

Funded by the Manchester Airport Community Trust Fund and our own club fundraising efforts, built in Manchester by (un)willing club members.

cage-2 The Manchester Outlaws decided we wanted some extra cool stuff at our training ground at Hough End, Chorlton. We had watched the Manchester Softball League build their show pitch and we wanted to build something similar. Through various discussions about pitches and dirt and backstop fences it was clear that a pitching machine and batting cage was the facility that most members were most excited about, so we forged ahead with that plan. We initially veered towards a mobile pitching machine, the sort of washing machine motor with wheels that lobs out balls by dropping them between two wheels. Although a mobile machine has the obvious advantage of being mobile and relatively inexpensive, it also delivers an inconsistent pitch, is tricky sometimes to set up and would be difficult to arrange for guests to use as someone from the club would have to come and drag it out and set it up. A fixed commercial machine was being championed by some of the exec and we started to investigate the Iron Mike series from MasterPitch in the good ol’ US of A. Not surprisingly, no one in the UK or even Europe builds and distributes softball pitching machines! These guys have been making pitching machines for 50 years and the Iron Mike is one of the best pitching machines you can buy and is installed in many hundreds of batting cages throughout the USA. Looking back now I’m amazed we managed to convince everyone else it was a good idea and secondly actually get the great hulking piece of metal that is an Iron Mike, to Manchester from Kansas City, which is about 3K miles away! The pitching machine and all its various accessories was $4,400 (£2780.00 at the time), leaving us very little money for everything else we needed so we had to muck in and do all the work ourselves! We built the cage over the course of many weekends with lots of the club members coming along to dig, heft and mix cement. We used 40 bags of cement and over a 100 bags of ballast to secure the cage poles and to build the stand for Iron Mike. cage-1 Duncan, from the Mutineers the newest team to join our club, very kindly arranged transportation from the states to North Manchester which took an agonising 2 months. Nathan Gulum and myself then picked Iron Mike up in a van and spent a terrifying 20 minutes getting him on to the tail lift and then off again. The next evening we then got all the troops around again to physically lift up Iron Mike and settle him triumphantly on the concrete piers we’d made. Iron Mike was powered up the next week and after a few tweaks we stepped in for the first hits, and it was fantastic. The batting cage is available for rent for £30.00 an hour or £20.00 for 30 minutes from ManchesterOutlaws.co.uk/battingcage. We also sell tokens for £3.00 each (15 pitches) or five for £10.00 (75 pitches). We are still raising money and web have recently agreed with Hough End to mark out a permanent diamond with an astro turf batting box, then we’ll move on to some team seating and dug outs and a back stop fence, it never ends!

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