OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As practice fields continue to be shut down for teams to practice on across Omaha, batting cages are one of the few facilities still open for athletes to train.
The cages are permitted to be open for individual workouts and one-on-one coaching.
“This is an escape and this is what players need,” said Joe Siwa, a co-owner of the Strike Zone Omaha. “They need the chance to go out and enjoy themselves and be a kid.”
Siwa said while private workouts are permitted, group lessons have been canceled. As well capacity is limited to ten people at a time and customers also are required to call ahead to use a cage.
“Some players are wearing masks, some staff are wearing masks,” Siwa said. “We’re giving that option to them right now.”
With netting and fencing an added barrier, the athletes are keeping safe distances at all times. The facility cleans its balls and bats after every use and is doing other measures to implement social distancing while the athletes take reps in the batting cages.
“Of course moms and dads want to watch their kids in the cage and if we’re under the ten person limit we’ll allow them in. But if not we ask them to wait in their cars for their players so they can get their work in and get back out,” Siwa said.
Earlier this week Gov. Pete Ricketts announced baseball and softball will resume play starting June 1 under strict guidelines. Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said in the meantime, it’s important for teams to not meet up and practice.
“People ask me all the time can you overrule what the governor has ordered and no I can not. These are enforceable by law,” Stothert said. “This is for these kids protection, your protection, we don’t want a bunch of teams together that potentially could spread the virus. I’ve had people tell me that kids can’t spread the virus and that is not true. The kids can also be vectors and bring it home to their grandma or grandpa or their mom or dad.”
Once open for games there will be strict guidelines the athletes and fans will need to follow including where athletes can sit and which family members can view the game in-person. Mayor Stothert said baseball and softball are the only sports that will be permitted to begin play in June.
“No other sport, it’s not soccer, it’s not football, it’s not wrestling, it’s just baseball and softball with some really strict guidelines,” Stothert said.
Until the games resume, batting cages remain one of the few places athletes can work out at. Siwa said he hopes games can resume for the ballplayers who frequent his facility.
“It’s America’s pastime and baseball has been around for so many different events throughout the world and this is no different,” Siwa said. “It gets us back on track to where we need to be.”
Watch reporter Phil Bergman’s story in the above video.