In terms of fun factor, new baseball-booze pub Baseball Cage in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 7 has stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun.
In case you’ve taken a few balls to the face over the years and haven’t worked it out yet, Baseball Cage is a baseball-themed venue with four automatic batting cages in it and is the first of its kind in soccer-mad Vietnam.
Vietnam does have a newly-formed official national baseball and softball federation established just this year, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an actual ballpark anywhere.
So this place is a pretty rare diamond and a good one at that.
Baseball Cage isn’t just a line-up of batting cages with a bar conveniently attached to it where you can purchase pub grub and booze as a bit of an afterthought.
Rather, it’s a large purpose-built venue by local and Korean owners that ensures it caters for two of our all-time favourite pastimes – nhauing and letting off steam by way of trying to belt the cover off a leather-encased ball.
That’s not to say this place is just for the purvey of jaded middle-aged content creators like me.
Nor do you have to be a diehard fan of baseball, either. What does bottom of the 9th mean anyway?
When I was here on a steamy Friday afternoon recently, there was a steady turnover of young local ladies entering the cages willing to try their hand at hitting some balls.
And hit them they did.
Change it up or down
The cages are arranged according to pitch speed, from 70km/h (43mph) up to 100km/h (62mph).
Initially they look intimidating close-up, especially given the bullpen is directly behind the hitters, so when they strike out (which is often), the cage rattles to the sound of leather on cyclone wire fencing in line with your face.
I caught myself flinching and laughing uncomfortably into my beer a number of times before finally getting my eye in and plucking up the courage to enter one of the cages for a swing.
The three beers I had beforehand undoubtedly helped as well.
Open 7 days
From Monday to Friday, a three-minute session consisting of about 15 pitches costs just VND28,000 (approx. US$1.20), while on holidays and at weekends it rises to VND38,000 (approx. US$1.70).
Anyone who’s played some kind of ball sport at any level in their lives will find the 70km/h cage a lot of fun. I “middled” everything and in my mind sent my imaginary baseball team – The Phu My Hung Rats – into the playoffs as raging favourites to take out the World Series.
It also inflated my confidence to the point where I thought it was a reasonable idea to skip the 80km/h (50mph) and 90km/h (56mph) cages and face up to the fast balls in the 100km/h (62mph) cage.
To put the speeds into perspective, it’s said that pro-ballers in the United States clock in at around 148km/h or 92mph on average for a fast ball, so the speed here at Fiddly Field isn’t quick by those standards.
Nevertheless, I think I put bat-on-ball about 50% of the time.
Chill in the bullpen
But if you’re like me (built for comfort these days), you’ll probably find that two or three sessions will be enough until that old back injury begins to flare up or you start to feel your upper drinking arm beginning to excruciatingly separate from your lower drinking arm at the elbow.
That’s when it’s time to hang up the bat and retire to the dugout for a burger and fries (VND129,000 / US$5.70) and a beer (VND75,000 / US$3.30).
The food menu is extensive and caters for both individuals and groups.
There are sharing plates of pork, duck and chicken which will set you back VND450,000 (approx. US$20) and steak lovers won’t be crying foul ball over the options – there’s even a 1.5kg Tomahawk listed on the menu here for VND2.3 million (US$100).
There are salads, spaghetti and desserts that can all be washed down with a dazzling array of drinks as eclectic as some of the swings that take place in the cages, including cocktails “for the ladies” such as the Spicy Collagen Lips for VND180,000 (US$8) and the Gloaming (VND150,000 / US$6.60).
I can’t help but think they missed out on an opportunity to name some of their signature cocktails more in line with the venue. I can imagine sitting down to a Curve Ball or a Bunt shot – can’t you?
Still, there are plenty of classics to choose from, including a Long Island Iced Tea for VND180,000 down to a basic G&T for VND120,000 (US$5.30), or if you’re just after a beer, there’s a bunch of imported and local craft frothies starting at VND85,000 (US$3.75) for a local East West Brewing Co. Pale Ale, right up to VND550,000 (US$24) for some kind of extravagant Asahi brew from Japan.
And local lager fans (before you get your knickers in a knot), there’s a small selection of the mass-produced stuff, although I was surprised to discover there’s currently nothing on offer on-tap.
So much fun is Baseball Cage that I predict it will achieve what so few bars have been able to do before it – drag punters away from their District 1 and 2 “bubbles” for an evening to see how the other half actually lives.
At the very least, it offers another great option for date night.
And if things don’t work out as planned, you can tell everyone you made it to first base…kind of.
Baseball Cage is at 479 Le Van Luong St., District 7, HCMC
For more info, visit facebook.com/baseballcageHCM
***This is not a sponsored post. We just liked the place***
Words by Matthew Cowan. The only roster he ever made it onto was the clean up duty one at school.