Queens facility takes you out to ball game

Members of the Little Neck-Douglaston Cardinals line up to practice their swings at the Bayside Batting and Pitching Academy's indoor practice facility. Photo by Phil Corso
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Without looking, the sounds of Bayside’s Batting and Pitching Academy resembled any other ball field amid the early spring season frenzy. The cracking of aluminum bats seemingly dominated the room only to be met with the encouraging yells of a Little League coach.

But the baseball factory, on the second floor of 42-02 215th St., doesn’t look like your traditional diamond-shaped field. Inside, batters of all ages take their swings encased in black nets and fielders practice their skills on a mock infield.

“Practice makes perfect, and this is the best place to do it,” said Mike Socci, manager at Bayside Batting and Pitching.

The one-stop baseball and softball practice spot offers an affordable, year-round facility to local players and teams of all ages, Socci said. Whether it’s offensive strategies or defensive mechanics, there isn’t any aspect of the game that can’t be perfected in Bayside.

Hitters looking for an extra push also have the option of training alongside hitting coaches and former Major League Baseball players Gabby Martinez and Kevin Baez.

But one of the most common uses of the facility, Socci said, involve Little League teams from the area, including Bayside and Little Neck. Sal Vassallo coaches the Little Neck/Douglaston Cardinals and said he brings his bunch to the cages at least once a week.

He threw pitches to his players as they warmed up during batting practice.

“We come here because we can focus more on the batting and pitching aspects of the game,” Vassallo said. “The pitching machines are more accurate than any pitcher could be and it helps the kids get better.”

Vassallo said there weren’t too many cages in the area that were as especially clean as the Bayside Batting and Pitching.

“They keep it clean, which I feel is most important,” Vassallo said. “Appearance is everything.”

Andy Chui plays third base and outfield for the Cardinals and said practicing has been an easy and enjoyable experience for his entire team.

“It’s so close to home,” Chui said. “That makes it easy to practice and improve on a regular basis.”

Bayside Batting and Pitching, owned by Anthony Chiodi, opened in 2009 with four cages, a party room and a main lobby with clear glass to allow parents and spectators to watch practices as they unfold.

It is open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.

The busiest season, Socci said, ranged from December to April, when the weather might not permit the most baseball-friendly conditions.

“Sometimes it’s tough to get a field,” Socci said. “Here coaches and players can book the cages anytime they want.”

Walk-ins are also welcome.

Socci said championship teams have come through the batting cages and credited some of their success to the time they devoted to the practice space.

“It’s more than just hitting,” Socci said. “People can come here to learn teamwork, defense and other fundamentals of the game.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573

Updated 10:33 am, May 22, 2012
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