Step right up to the plate in NoLibs

For too long, any­one look­ing to get bat­ting prac­tice had to ven­ture far to step in­to an in­door bat­ting cage. Not any­more, as the city’s first has opened right here in the River Wards.

Every­body Hits own­er Dav­id Gav­igan stands proudly in front of the crowd at his new in­door bat­ting cages. The cages opened May 1 in a build­ing with a var­ied his­tory of uses since the 1890s. MI­KALA JAM­IS­ON / STAR PHOTO

There’s ob­vi­ous ex­cite­ment in the air in a small build­ing — with a big his­tory — on Gir­ard Av­en­ue in North­ern Liber­ties.

Knee-high kids, look­ing like bobble­heads in their hel­mets, a few big­ger guys and girls, and sev­er­al moms and dads crowd the space in­side Every­body Hits, the newly opened in­door bat­ting cages, the first of its kind in the city of Phil­adelphia.

There are sounds of tokens clank­ing in­to ball pitch­ing ma­chines, cage gates swinging open and closed, and of course, phrases of en­cour­age­ment.

“That’s it! You got it!”

“Nice swing!”

“Okay, good try, good try!”

At 529 W. Gir­ard Ave., Every­body Hits is true to its name. Every­one seems to be here.

Own­er Dav­id Gav­igan, 26, opened the bat­ting cages on May 1 after more than a year of pre­par­a­tions, in­clud­ing find­ing just the right space.

“I was car­pool­ing with a friend through Fishtown and North­ern Liber­ties and saw just so many empty ware­houses,” the Read­ing, Pa. nat­ive said in an in­ter­view last Thursday. He said was in­trigued by many of them be­fore land­ing on Gir­ard Av­en­ue. “This is like, ware­house num­ber 25,” he con­tin­ued with a grin.

The Every­body Hits build­ing has a stor­ied his­tory. The struc­ture dates to the 1890s, and was used for sev­er­al ven­tures — it was home to an ap­pli­ance out­let, a bowl­ing al­ley, an in­door farm­er’s mar­ket and per­haps most in­triguingly, a si­lent movie theat­er.

Every­body Hits’ build­ing dis­plays some vestiges of the long-ago farm­er’s mar­ket — you can still see the word “beef” in chipped paint on one wall — and Gav­igan said he’s even found a bit of bur­ied treas­ure.

“When I was dig­ging in the back of this place, I found a hand­ful of oyster shells,” he said.

And the former movie theat­er’s pro­jec­tion screen is still ac­cess­ible. Gav­igan and some friends re­cently used it to watch — what else? — “The Sand­lot.”

Now, though, the space serves as a point of con­veni­ence for ball play­ers and any­one who en­joys a strictly base­ball-fo­cused at­mo­sphere.

“I was ob­sessed with in­door base­ball,” Gav­igan said. “I quit in high school, but picked it back up in col­lege with friends. We were al­ways go­ing to in­door cages, but I didn’t have a car, and the cages were in the far North­east, or Con­sho­hock­en.”

He thought it would make sense then, Gav­igan said, to build bat­ting cages here in the city. He said he’s not sure why no one in the city has done it be­fore.

“I guess it’s sort of a sub­urb­an concept. In the city, space is at a premi­um. If you build an in­door one, you need the space, if you build an out­door one, what are you go­ing to do in the off-sea­son?”

After his empty ware­house search, Gav­igan said he’s glad he landed in the neigh­bor­hood after a Craigslist search turned up the Gir­ard Av­en­ue space.

“It’s dif­fer­ent [here] from oth­er parts of the city. I just think there are a lot of young busi­nesses own­ers who care and talk to each oth­er. There’s a lot of en­ergy,” he said.

Gav­igan said he hopes to keep Every­body Hits what he calls a “en­tirely base­ball-centered en­ter­tain­ment and leis­ure zone.” He would like to host clin­ics and base­ball book dis­cus­sions, and turn the up­stairs area — which used to be the movie theatre’s pro­jec­tion room — in­to a club­house.

Every­body Hits also has a few base­ball ar­cade games, which are free to play. Play­ers can use the cages for $2.25 for one round, and can buy five rounds for $10. Base­ball teams can also rent the space.

Elena Bres­ani and Noah Corbett, a couple who stopped in for a few pitches on Thursday, were both ex­cited about the new bat­ting cages.

“I think it’s really nice. It’s a good fam­ily activ­ity, but also for people in their 20s,” Bres­ani, who lives in North­ern Liber­ties, said. “We were think­ing about rent­ing it out for a party.”

“The loc­a­tion is num­ber one,” Corbett said, adding that he’s grate­ful for the base­ball-only ele­ment. “I like that it’s just a bat­ting cage. It’s not like, a kid fun cen­ter.”

Sach­ina Brown and her son Kori, 9, were vis­it­ing the cages for a couple rounds with Kori’s base­ball team on Thursday.

“It’s def­in­itely nice to have ac­cess to this, when it was only really in the sub­urbs,” Brown said. Kori’s base­ball team, the Cou­gars — part of the Taney Youth Base­ball league — were prac­ti­cing in the cages that day.

As for Gav­igan, he seems to be hav­ing just as much fun as the vis­it­ors to the cages.

“It’s just so awe­some to see people in this place I’ve worked on since Ju­ly,” he said. “It’s a simple thing that people en­joy. The more simple things that people en­joy we can have in this city, the bet­ter.” ••

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