Sidwell’s Indoor Batting Cage in Wannan Is a Hidden Gem

Though Sidwell’s indoor batting facility has been in operation for two years, many are unaware of its existence. In winter 2019, Sidwell’s baseball and softball programs collaborated to open an indoor batting cage located in the Wannan Gym. 

The indoor cage offers players the opportunity to improve during the winter months when it is too cold to work outside. In the cage, players have the option to hit off tees and a pitching machine. To ensure any player who wants to hit has the opportunity to do so, the cage provides extra bats for players who cannot bring their own and extra helmets to keep players safe.

“The batting cage is a great tool that has helped our team continue to improve when it is too cold or dark to play outside,” junior Mikey Levy said.

Sidwell Baseball Coach and Upper School Math Teacher Jon Mormino, also a groundskeeper, explained the origins of the cage. 

“In the fall of 2019, one of our students saw that the old wrestling room in the Wannan was just being used for storage,” Mormino said. “Since the space was not in use, I asked [the former athletic director] for permission to clear it out and turn it into a batting cage,” he added. 

After former Athletic Director Keith Levinthal granted the team permission to set up the batting cage, renovations began. From there, the student-athletes converted the room into the perfect indoor space. 

On account of nearly 10 years of neglect, the space was in poor condition. The white walls were covered in chipped paint and old athletic clothing, and equipment filled the room. 

With help from coaches and facilities staff, however, the players cleared the old contents of the room and relocated usable equipment to storage closets in the Upton building. Then, the baseball team repainted the walls green to make it easier for players to see the ball, and the grounds crew set up nets. 

After three months of construction, the batting cage opened to all softball and baseball players. Players and coaches established rules and expectations to ensure everyone would use the cage in a safe and rewarding manner.

Soon after its opening, however, the cage shut down in spring 2020 as Sidwell turned to virtual learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After more than a year, the cage reopened for use as Sidwell resumed in-person instruction. However, the cage operated at half capacity, with only two students permitted inside at once. Additionally, fewer players were willing to use the cage, as many were still concerned about their safety.

The current revitalization of the cage came with the new addition of Sidwell Boys’ Baseball Head Coach Curtis Wilson. Wilson sees the cage as an integral piece of his aim to transform the baseball team into an even more competitive program, with a tighter-knit community on both the Middle School and Varsity levels.

“The cage is a great tool for player development, which gives our student-athletes a unique opportunity to improve themselves whenever they have free time,” Wilson explained. 

Not only is the cage an important tool for improving baseball skills, but baseball players also say that it is a hub for team bonding and comradery throughout the baseball program. 

Since Wilson began coaching the program, an influx of eager players have made an effort to hone their skills during their free periods. The baseball coaching staff hopes to continue to improve the space for their players.

“The space will hopefully grow to fit the needs of the program within the boundaries of what the school permits,” Mormino said.