Why are we writing about this? So you don’t get screwed, and you're able to find the perfect material you need for your batting cage needs.
Let’s go elementary… Who, what, when, where, and why.
Let’s start off with this one.
Why a buyer’s guide? Wish we didn’t have to. But we feel that an educated buyer will be more confident with their purchase and overall a happier customer.
- Who should you buy a batting cage from?
- Who is going to be using the cage? Your kid(s), little league team, school team, rec league.
There are a lot of companies selling cages these days but not all of them have the experience to work through your project and identify which cage will best fit your need. Find a company that has been in business for 15+years. These establishments have seen a few generational changes in materials and construction of cages and can offer quality advice. Watch out for ‘new’ companies touting ‘50years of combined experience’. This might simply be the addition of the 3 sales team members with 1-year experience each coupled with: a shipping manager with 25 years’ experience shipping cages and a janitor with another 15 years of experience. Just like my math, it does equal what it is supposed to.
‘Who’ is actually going to be in the cage swinging for the fences plays a big factor in the purchase strategy as well. 9-year-old slugger that is dippin’ Big League Chew vs one that is typically sitting in right field picking dandelions. High school standout or the whole team. The more reps and the harder the hits will lead to wanting to get a higher end net.
The money is real, whereas the dream or expectation may not be.
The cost difference between a lightweight and a heavy duty cage could be around $250. Do you need to spend that now? Or is that better spent later on?
Most of the higher end batting cages are going to last a good 5-7 years depending on use and abuse. Think about the tires on a car… Edmonds.com puts it this way…
If you drive a typical number of miles, somewhere around 12,000-15,000 miles annually, a tire's tread will wear out in three to four years, long before the rubber compound does. But if you drive much less than that, or have a car that you only drive on weekends, aging tires could be an issue.
Likewise with the netting. If the high school team is using it a couple times a week and then the travel team is using it in the offseason you want the heavy duty.
What material is it made from?
Polyester, polypropylene, HDPE, nylon. Don’t be fooled, not all materials are created equally.
HDPE – High-Density PolyEthylene – is probably the most commonly used material out there. Good strength, abrasion resistance, and weather resistance. It is a plastic-like material, that should have UV inhibitors incorporated in the extruded fibers.
Nylon – stronger than HDPE, good abrasion resistance, it will take on some moisture and show color fade from UV exposure. Typically the most expensive option.
HTPP & Polyester… not a lot of these options out there. Most batting tunnel nets use twisted twine that is tied in knots at the intersections. HTPP and Polyester need to undergo special processing to keep their knots from slipping, resulting in larger openings where a ball could make it through.
Size-Contrary to popular belief, size does matter. Consider the thickness of the twine that is used to make the netting. The thicker the twine the stronger it should be, the heavier it will weigh, the more it will cost, and the longer it will last. I say that it should be stronger because there are still shifty companies out there that will manipulate the fibers to measure thicker but they are not the same strength, or they will mislead you with the labeling. When comparing cages offered by two companies check the breaking strength of the twine and the overall physical weight of the cage.
- #42HDPE – 12’h x 14’w x 70’l should have a break strength around 220lbs and weigh 125pounds +/- 5%
- #42Nylon – 12’h x 14’w x 70’l should have a break strength around 375lbs and weigh 125pounds +/- 5%
When do I replace my cage?
For those of you that already have a cage and are wondering when it is time to replace your existing cage if you can tear it open like a Christmas present, it’s time to replace the netting. HDPE and HTPP will look nice and black all the way to point of failure with no indication of fade or failure. Nylon and Polyester will fade over time, but if you scratch at the faded fibers you should find that underneath the fibers are unaffected.
Where am I installing my cage?
Think about the overall footprint of the cage/tunnel itself. Now, for the best fit and function, ideally, you are going to want to allow for at least 1’ of spacing around your entire cage. This allows the netting to move freely when the ball impacts it. Netting that is installed very taut will wear out much faster and consequently create a ricochet effect too. If there are obstacles or structures too close to the netting they will also create a pinch or compression point between them and the ball which will also accelerate the wear in that area.