How to Build a Backyard Batting Cage
A backyard batting cage can be the envy of the neighborhood – or the bane of it, if it’s not built properly. Because they are large, and feature relatively unattractive nets, they should be constructed with materials that can easily be taken down and stored for the winter. Many companies offer pre-made kits, but if you want to make your own, you can use heavy PVC and build one with little more than a saw and glue.
Find the best spot for your batting cage. Look for an area the farthest removed from the sight lines of your neighbors and with a good noise barrier (a fence, tall landscaping, etc.). The area needs to be at least 8 feet wide and 25 feet long (40 feet is ideal, if the yard is big enough).
Line the entire area with landscape ties, half buried in the ground. Remove all existing landscape in the area and rake flat. Dig narrow, 2-foot-deep holes in each corner and at 8-foot intervals along the border. Cut a 3-inch drainpipe to 2-foot lengths and put one in each hole. Back fill the holes with pea gravel and tamp tight. The pipe should stick out about 1-2 inches above the level of the ground. Put a very thin layer of pea gravel for drainage on top of the dirt and rake smooth. The entire 8 by 25 (or longer) square should have the empty drain pipes, 1 inch above the leveled ground, surrounded by the landscape ties.
Construct the batting cage frame using 2-inch PVC pipe. Only buy Schedule 40. The PSI 200 is cheaper, but not as sturdy. Lay out the top of the frame directly inside the landscape ties. Using a hacksaw, cut the pipe lengths to fit with 90’s in the corners and T’s directly centered on the drainpipes down the length of the cage. Wipe the cut pipe with a towel and glue using the PVC cement. It dries quickly. Glue the open T end straight down, with the 90’s connecting the entire frame that matches the landscape ties. The third open end of the 90’s should be face down like the Ts. Turn the frame upside down with the open connections facing up. Cut 5-foot lengths of 2-inch pipe and slide into each open connection. Do not glue so you can remove these pieces later. At the end of 5-foot length pipe, tighten a compression connector. Cut another round of 5-foot lengths of pipe and place a 2-inch cap on one end.
Turn the PVC frame over. It will be 5-feet tall. Drag a net over the frame. The net most likely will have to be purchased from a supply company. They make some prearranged sizes or can make one custom-sized upon request. Secure corners firmly around the top of the frame to give added stability. Now, with help, take one side of the cage and connect the second 5-foot length of pipe to the open end of the compression fitting, capped end down toward the ground. Then do the next side. Place the capped ends in each open drainpipe. The cap should fit relatively easily in the 3-inch pipe. If the net, once lowered into the drainpipes, is still too flimsy, pack a few inches of sand into the drainpipe to secure the cage. Lower the net to the ground.
Roll out artificial turf, either cut to fit the entire caged area (preferable) or at least an 8 feet by 8 feet square, where the hitter will stand. At the end of the cage, place your JUGS pitching machine. Discreetly run an extension cord to the machine from an exterior outlet. Finally, using the bungee cord, cut holes in the carpet and hang on the back wall, in the “strike zone” behind the hitter to deflect the pitched balls from hitting the net directly. Leave the hitting tee outside the cage for warm-up swings by hitting Wiffle balls into the outside of the net. The entire cage can be easily disassembled for bad weather, or in winter by loosening the compression fittings, pulling the pipe from the fittings and laying the top glued frame on the ground inside the landscape ties. The turf and net can be rolled up and stored.
Don’t settle for an inferior pitching machine. JUGS was the first, remains the simplest in terms of construction, and is considered the best in the business. If you want a more secure frame, add another round of fittings above the compression fitting and put a second “frame” that matches the top midway up the frame. If removing the frame is not important, you can glue the entire structure. The netting and pipe are weather-resistant.
For the most part, the net won’t need to be staked, but if too many balls are being hit underneath, use tent stakes on the back and sides, leaving one end by the hitter to lift and enter and exit the cage. Be careful to hit away from all structures. Hitters should wear helmets. The person feeding the balls into the pitching machine should stand behind a free-standing screen that can be purchased at supply stores.
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