When pondering your options for summertime activities, try and remember that summer is the time of the year when ridiculous inventions like hammocks, mojitos and flip-flops actually make sense. So why would anyone want to exert any kind of athletic energy from May to August? Friends, this is St. Louis: You're going to sweat anyway. No need to rush it.
But if you insist on moving your muscles this season, we've collected some fine leisure sports and activities for armchair athletes of all ages. Just try not to play too hard; you'll make the rest of us look bad.
Softball is a well-loved summer sport for many reasons: There is minimal running involved, only basic hand-eye coordination is necessary, and coolers of beer are considered standard equipment, along with bats and gloves. But should you want to increase your on-base percentage, the batting cage is a fine first stop.
The cages at Tower Tee (6727 Heege Road, Marlborough; 314-481-5818 or www.towertee.com) offer high-, medium- and low-arc softball pitches (as well as varying-speed cages for baseball sluggers), and each $1 token is good for fifteen swings. The softball cages are purposefully designed to perfect your aim: Hit it too high and the netting will catch it; too low, and you'll bounce it into the imaginary infield.
But strike it just right and you can clear the netting and to the outfield it will go. As an added bonus, a giant Chicago Cubs sign hangs in the clearing, just waiting for you to drill a few line-drives into that big red-and-blue circled C.
There are those who consider Tiger Woods the greatest living athlete. And then there are the rest of us, the ones who admire the act of chasing a little white ball across several acres, but who don't consider golf a particularly straining activity. But if hoofing it around eighteen holes is too much for you, the driving range offers a chance to do the really fun part of golf: hitting the hell out of the ball — over and over again. There is no shortage of fine driving ranges around town, but one of the area's hidden gems can be found at the Family GolfPlex (3717 Tree Court Industrial Drive, Valley Park; 636-861-2500).
Located in Valley Park, near the banks of the Meramec River, the golf center provides a quiet, secluded spot to work on your long game. The range has two levels of AstroTurf mats, as well as a section of grass for those who prefer to go au naturel. Those brave souls who want to try their hand at eighteen holes can do so at GolfPlex's par-three course. Thankfully, carts are available; you'd hate to work up a sweat.
Nestled beside Highway 30 and set in the shadow of the mighty Gravois Bluffs shopping megaplex, Swing-A-Round Fun Town (335 Skinker Lane, Fenton; 636-349-7077 or www.swing-a-round.com) lives up to its name. The place is a small metropolis, stocked with such outdoor amusements as go-karts, batting cages and bumper boats — not to mention the host of games at the indoor arcade. The crown jewel, though, is the miniature golf area, which features three different and challenging courses. You'll play amid whimsical castles, rushing rivers and mining-town shanties. The professionally designed courses even have simulated "rough" patches, taking your putt-putt game one step closer to the PGA.
Out of all the backyard games, Wiffle ball may be the most democratic. You can play it with two people or with twenty. It doesn't take any refined skill to play, though masters of the game can do wonders with that cheap plastic orb. Such masters acknowledged the true beauty of the game — a scaled-down version of baseball without the threat of injury — and turned it into an honest-to-God sport. To wit: the STL Wiffle Ball League, a cadre of ballers who play on teams with names like the Hot-Dankity Wifflers and Pagnozzi's Posse (no doubt named in honor of former Cardinals catcher Tom "Fat Pags" Pagnozzi). The games take place on Saturday afternoons in Tower Grove Park (4256 Magnolia Avenue) and are open to spectators. Registration for the summer league goes on until June 15. All interested Wiffle-ballers can learn more at www.stlwiffleballs.com.
St. Louis prides itself as the home of washers. On practically any given summer day, one can hear the clink of washers sailing into coffee cans at barbecues across town. For all its charm, though, washers is only a refinement of the classic game of horseshoes.
Several St. Louis-area parks still have horseshoe pits, but south city's Carondelet Park (South Grand Boulevard and Loughborough Avenue) is home to ten pits, located along Loughborough Avenue, on the park's southern border. Each afternoon folks from the neighborhood meet to pitch horseshoes, enjoy a cold one and argue about each others' "ringers" and "leaners." You'll have to supply your own horseshoes. The park's shaded horseshoe pits offer a simple, bucolic way to enjoy the twilight.
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