OTTUMWA — Ever get the urge to swing a baseball bat after biting into a juicy and delicious grinder at your favorite local restaurant?

That fantasy is now a reality as the city of Ottumwa has a brand new pair of batting cages that sit atop the Family Food Court on West Second Street.

The brand new batting cages occupy the second floor of the building and are just across the hall from the Ottumwa Boxing Club’s gym.

Kids, young adults, or anyone interested in taking some cuts will get the opportunity to hone their baseball or softball skills year round.

The need for the cages was obvious according to one of the organizers and fundraisers, Kevin Ward, who works on the force of the Ottumwa Police Department.

“We were starting to see that smaller communities were having things like this and we were having to go to those communities to use their facilities,” said Ward.

Trips to Albia, Centerville, or Oskaloosa to use their cages will be no more as the baseball crazy town of Ottumwa can stay within the city limits to work on their game.

The batting cages are totally non-profit and the cost of the facility ran around $9,000 according to Ward. There are around 40 current members that use the cages and three-month, six-month, and yearly memberships are currently available. Sessions in the cages are limited to 30-minutes.

A three-month membership costs $70 and the yearly package runs $250.

“The thing about it is every penny we get dumps right back into here,” Ward added.

Matt Rose, an Ottumwa resident that works at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in town, also talked about the facility that he had a large hand in creating.

“The more members we have, the less we can charge. We want to make it affordable,” said Rose.

When asked how many members the facility could hold, Ward was quick to answer.

“As many as we can get in here with where it’s still comfortable to use — that’s how many people we’re looking for,” said Ward.

It shouldn’t be a problem to keep the cages busy as youth and adults alike are clamoring to get in and see what the cages have to offer.

“People are killing to get into places like this,” said Ward.

The cages have been in operation for a little under a month. Ward described the members as a community that all pitch in, which makes for a fun place to hang out and sharpen your batting eye.

“We have a board of directors and we set things up as we go. If there is a problem we adjust to it and try to make things work for everybody. It’s kind of like a co-op. Everybody is a member and has input,” Ward said. “Everybody that belongs here owns a part of it.”

The owner of the Family Food Court, Greg Fleming, was also a help in getting the cages to come to Ottumwa.

“He is working with us. He felt the need for it and he has done a lot of things to assist us,” said Ward.

Ward also stated that the cages are set for teams to rent for a half-hour or an hour in the future.

Rose talked about some of the stipulations that one must adhere to, to use the cages.

“You have to come up with an adult or somebody over 18. It’s not set up to where you just come in off the street and just go hit,” said Rose.

The youth of Ottumwa should benefit the most from the creation of the cages. A simple fact that should keep Ottumwa one of the better baseball towns in the state.

“This gives the boys a chance to go compete in all-stars and other tournaments and things. It’s tough for our guys to get to practice in the winter time. You have to find a gymnasium to get into and that’s not always possible for everybody. That’s why we needed to do this,” said Rose.

If interested in a donation or membership, contact Mark Van Velsor at 641-455-1212.

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