The Batterz Box -- now you can try before you buy
Anyone who has ever purchased a fastpitch softball bat knows that unless you're getting the same bat a teammate has it's an act of supreme faith. You basically have two options.
One is to go online, check out a few user reviews and make a selection. You then wait one to ten days (depending on how much you're willing to spring for freight) to see if you've made a good choice.
The other is to go to a local store, where you can pick it up, feel it, and see if it looks like it might be good. If you're really gutsy, you might try to find a little open space in the store where you can take a few swings. (Just remember to look around to see if anyone is near you before you take that home run cut.)
Either way, it's the equivalent of buying a car without a test drive. And given that a good bat these days costs about as much as a car payment you're taking an awful chance -- especially if you've waited until right before the season to make your purchase.
That's why I was excited to check out a new store that opened in Libertyville, Illinois called The Batterz Box, which my friend Jill Griffin turned me on to. First of all, they offer a nice selection of the top-level bats from Louisville Slugger, Demarini, Easton and more instead of the low-to-mid-end bats you'll usually find at a big box store. But what is really cool about it is you can actually try the bats out before you buy them, to make sure you find the one that's right for you.
The Batterz Box has six small batting cages where you can bring a baseball or fastpitch softball bat you're interested in, and then soft toss or front toss to see what it feels like when you swing it full out -- and make contact. No more worrying about hitting some little kid running through the aisle at a big box store! I didn't notice any tees there, but hopefully they'll be putting some of those in as well.
The entire store is very clean and well-lit. They have a very good selection of bats, as well as catcher's gear, gloves, mitts, bat bags and other gear. They say they'll be getting more in as well, so if you check it out right now and don't see what you want just let them know what you're looking for.
It's all serious gear too. You won't find track suits or other clothing items made for people who want to look like they're athletic when they're really going to sit on the couch and eat potato chips. This is a store for players.
The director of softball operations is Michelle Oswald, who is an accomplished private instructor and the hitting coach for the Lake Forest College Forresters fastpitch softball team. Michelle has obviously put a lot of thought into what type of store she would've wanted as a player, and has advised the owners well.
So you're probably wondering at this point how much of a premium you have to pay for this radical comment. But actually their pricing is the same as you'll find on the Internet. Oswald told me they're very careful about that. So not only do you get to try before you buy, you pay the same as on the Internet but without the wait. Or the freight charges.
If you're in the Chicago area, either as a resident or a visitor, be sure to check it out (and tell them Ken Krause sent you; it doesn't get you anything special but it always sounds good). The store is located at 1336 S. Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville, in the Red Top shopping center. Their website is a work in progress right now, but you can like them on Facebook too to get more information.
Wish I would've thought to take a couple of photos while I was there. But I'm sure I'll be back again, so I'll take couple and post them then. Or if Michelle sees this maybe she can share a link.
And in case you're wondering, no, I have no financial stake in The Batterz Box. I just think it's really cool, and a place that will help fastpitch hitters (and players in general) up the level of their games by getting the equipment that's right for them.
So what do you think? Cool concept? Do you know of anywhere else that you can do the same thing?