On a recent drive through Long Island I stopped at some batting cages to test out my skills (which had not been tested since Meat Loaf was my softball coach decades ago). My traveling companion was shocked, declaring, "You're a contact hitter!" and that's all it took to get bit by the baseball bug again. The only problem: where can you sock a few dingers in New York City without paying $90 an hour (ahem, Chelsea Piers)? I did some research (and please, add your suggestions in the comments!).
RANDALL'S ISLAND GOLF CENTER
This place seems to be the way to go. It's outdoors (a huge plus), and the rates are fairly reasonable in comparison to others. You get 30 pitches per token ($3.50), or you can rent the cage for $40 for 30 minutes, or $60 for an hour. But take note: bring batting gloves, because these pitches are fast and will hurt your hands. (You could also just choose the slow-pitch softball setting.)
Bonus: They don't just have batting cages here, there's also mini golf, a driving range, and a beer garden.
1 Randall’s Island // 212.427.5689 // www.randallsislandgolfcenter.com
ASTORIA SPORTS COMPLEX
Here you'll get some pretty solid batting cages, albeit indoor ones (but they make it look like you're on a field!). The rates are less than Randall's Island, for baseball/softball/curveball pitches (speeds range from 40 to 95 MPH), you'll pay $15 for 15 minutes, $25 for 30 minutes, and $45 for 60 minutes.
34-38 38th Street, Queens // 718.729.7163 // ascsports1.com
THE BASEBALL CENTER
If you've got a real love of the game, head to the Baseball Center on the Upper West Side, where you won't get distracted by arcade games or beer gardens like at the other places. The Village Voice named this one the Best Batting Cage in the city, noting, "the 15,000-square-foot training center that has something to offer everyone, from youngsters looking to get an edge up on their Little League opponents to old-timers looking to hit some balls and remember the glory days." And their pitches can hit up to 100 MPH! Note: looks like you'll have to rent your cage ahead of time.
202 West 74th Street // 212.362.0344 // www.thebaseballcenter.com
STATEN ISLAND GO KARTS & MINI GOLF
Don't be fooled, on top of their go karts and mini golf, this place also has nice outdoor batting cages, including one "lob pitch" machine for those intimidated by a little speed. For $2.50 you'll get 18 pitches—not the best deal in town, but you'll get to hit those balls while breathing in the fresh SI air.
215 Schmidts Lane, Staten Island // 718.982.5576 // sigokarts.com
TURTLE COVE GOLF CENTER
Located right by City Island (here are our guides if you want to make a day of it) the Turtle Cove Golf Center has a great new batting cage area, with both softball and baseball pitching machines.
It'll cost you $3 per token (which gets you 25 pitches), but if you buy 5 tokens for $15 you get a 6th free. Otherwise, it's $40 for 30 minutes, and $60 for an hour.
1 City Island Road, Pelham Bay Park, The Bronx // 718.885.1129 // www.turtlecovegolfcenter.com
BROOKLYN SPORTS AND PARTY CENTER
The batting cages in particular have pretty good reviews on their Yelp page, so even if the place isn't outdoors or as nice looking as you may want it to be, it's a solid place to get some hits in. The speeds range from 30 to 80 MPH, and rates are fairly reasonable. $25 for 30 minutes, and $45 to hit some dingers for an hour (those both go up $10 on weekends).
800 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn // 718.965.0004 // www.3rdavenuesportscenter.com