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Stella's is where hitters get into swing of things

08/05/2014, 11:45am CDT
By George M. Wilcox | | @geomwilcox

When area high school and travel baseball and softball players need to work on their batting stroke, they head to downtown Lyons with dollar bills to buy tokens at Stella’s.

LYONS — For Quinton Hughes, Stella’s Restaurant and Batting Cages is more than a second home where he can go to work on his batting swing.

Hughes, an incoming senior at Lyons, is a left-handed pitcher for the Lions. He has taken a few swings in Stella’s batting cages to clear his head of stress and strain during final exams week. Hughes has even brought his girlfriend to Stella’s on a date. 

This summer, Hughes also is driving his younger brother Nicholas, an incoming Lyons freshman, to Stella’s where the brothers take turns in the classic “swing arm” batting cages that have challenged hundreds of hitters in downtown Lyons.

When Quinton Hughes once asked a friend if he had ever hit at Stella’s, his buddy texted back: “Who doesn’t hit at Stella’s?”

Stella’s is THE destination for area baseball and softball players. The family-owned facility has nine batting cages on site, with three set up for both softball and baseball pitching, one for softball only and five for baseball only. The baseball cages boast pitch speeds ranging from 54 to 80 mph.

Tokens cost a dollar for 10 pitches; a $5 bill delivers six tokens. 

The Hughes’ dad, Andrew, first took Quinton to Stella’s while his son was playing in the LaGrange Park youth baseball league. Quinton Hughes estimated he has been at Stella’s 10 times this summer after the high school baseball season ended.

“I remember being in the 35-miles-per-hour cage and then looking up at the 80-miles-per-hour cage and saying, ‘Wow,’ ” Quinton Hughes said. “That’s fast. But now I’m hitting in there.”

Lyons senior baseball player Quinton Hughes has been coming to the batting cages at Stella’s in Lyons since he was playing in the Little League. | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media

Quinton Hughes said he has seen Little League teams and travel teams come to Stella’s and rent a cage for an hour. 

In addition to a full-service restaurant and arcade games, owners Carey and Anna Matson recently added video gaming for the over-21 crowd.

Nazareth assistant baseball coach John Sime, a Darien resident, said the Roadrunners have met at Stella’s during preseason practice because the school doesn’t have an indoor hitting facility.

“While we are there, little kids come in [to hit],” Sime said. “It’s very friendly. It’s very accommodating.”

Fenwick senior third baseman Mike Krecek, a La Grange resident, was introduced to Stella’s by his father, Jim.

“I used it a couple of times over the winter,” Mike Krecek said. “When I had a rough start to the season, my dad made a big point of getting me in there.”

Leyden softball players Sammi Caputo of Franklin Park and Kendall Duwal of River Grove are regulars at Stella’s. Caputo heads there more than five times a week, sometimes twice a day. Like Quinton Hughes, Caputo, a senior pitcher/outfielder, has visited Stella’s during final exams.

“I like it because it’s old,” Caputo said. “The times when I’m hitting softballs, I think of [the film] ‘League of Their Own.’ I think of how great everyone is — so nice.”

Caputo tries to persuade teammates from the Eagles and her club team, the Oak Park-based Windmills, to join her at Stella’s.

Duwal started going to Stella’s two years ago as a Leyden freshman. She said her preferred time to visit is 1 p.m., when crowds are down.

“I like the outdoor seating and a lot of players train there,” Duwal said. “I see a ton of college travel teams and sometimes I’ve seen some girls on my own team.”

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