The Strike Zone Cage opens up for baseball players, young and old

........................................................................................................................................................................................

If you can’t make it out to the ballpark, maybe you can make it out to The Strike Zone Cage in Peralta.

Ungelbah Daniel-Davila-News-Bulletin photo: Tracy Aragon, owner of The Strike Zone Cage in Peralta, says his goal is to fill the wall behind his counter with pictures of kids who started playing baseball at his batting cage and went on to play professionally.

Owner Tracy Aragon, who was just elected to the Peralta Town Council, said he’s had the idea for the batting cage, which opened last September, in his head for the past five years.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I started coaching Little League,” Aragon said.

When Aragon got laid off as the diagnostic imaging manager of the New Mexico Cancer Center, he says he finally got the time and opportunity to go into the baseball business.

He said being a dad and a coach, he wanted to bring a place to Valencia County for people to practice baseball instead of having to travel to do it.

“I used to drive my teams and my kids up to Albuquerque to the Albuquerque Baseball Academy and I was talking to a lot of parents and they were doing the same thing,” he said. “And they were spending a lot of time, a lot of money and just a lot of effort getting to a facility like this.”

Aragon, a Los Lunas High School graduate, began coaching Little League after graduating college and is now the coach of the Valencia County JET (Jaguars, Eagles and Tigers).

“I want to try and cater this facility to Valencia County baseball players,” he said. “I’m getting kids from 5 years old all the way up to college age, and then just your average ex-baseball player who wants to come in and hit some balls, trying to think we can still do what we used to do when we were younger.”

Aragon began playing Little League when he was 5 years old and then played baseball at Los Lunas High School. He says he’s no baseball professional, just a big fan of the sport and also of the kids who play it.

“I think some of the best baseball players in the state live in Valencia County, and I’d just like to give these kids the opportunity to improve their skills,” he said. “When you go play some of the teams in Albuquerque, you can see the difference in the quality of play just because those guys have that facility to give them that little edge.”

He says Valencia County has a lack of baseball facilities for practice, so its important to offer more options to the local community. The facility is also a positive place for kids to hang out after school and on the weekend.

“I hear even the high school kids say, ‘This is the coolest thing to do in Valencia County now because there’s nothing to do.’ So it gives people a place to go outside of driving around.”

But you don’t have to be an experienced ball player to enjoy the batting cage. Aragon says some people drive by and see the sign who have never hit a baseball before and go in just to check it out.

“To me, baseball is kind of a metaphor for everyday life,” said Aragon. “Baseball’s one of the few sports where when you go up to bat, you fail more than you succeed. It teaches you to take the failures, to put those aside and concentrate on the success.”

Besides being an indoor baseball facility, Aragon offers three instructors to assist at all levels, from Little League all the way to the college level.

They are local ball players who have played at the college and semi-pro level. They also offer indoor tanning, because, he said, “If your going to watch a baseball game you’ve gotta get a sun tan.”

The Strike Zone Cage also sells sports equipment, specializing in wood bats.

“My idea is to offer to the local community a place to get quality bats at a really affordable price.” Aragon said.

He says one of the best parts of having the batting cage is getting to see kids learn the sport.

“It’s neat to see a father and son working together, especially a kid whose never played before,” he said. “They’re scared and the dad’s trying to talk them into getting into the cage, and once they’re done, they don’t want to leave.

“If, by putting this thing together, I can get a little kid hooked on baseball, and wants to keep coming back and wants to keep playing, then I think this place has served its purpose.”

Aragon said his goal is to fill his walls with pictures of kids who started out playing ball at the Strike Zone who go on to play at the college level.

The Strike Zone Cage is located at 3551 N.M. 47, Peralta. Call Aragon at 859-3610 for more information.


-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.