The Rhode Island Baseball Experience Final Swings – You Can Play Baseball In RI In The Winter!
Prior to attending North Kingstown High School in the school calendar year of 1986-87, I played 100% of my baseball outdoors. I waited patiently, like many of my baseball peers, for the snow to melt on our local fields and for Wickford Little League to start back up so I could head out to the ball fields and play the game I loved. When the snow hit the ground and the temps plummeted to those of this past week, I shut down my baseball operations and shifted to the basketball courts of Wickford Middle School and the NKHS gym, which I believe is now the main building, or maybe its the parking lot there, I am not very good with reading maps. Back in the days of Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Def Leopard I didn’t have an indoor baseball facility to go to during the off season. The only indoor recreational facility I was aware of was located inside my barn about 20 yards from the front door of my home in North Kingstown.
As I got going in high school, winter workouts in the gym were part of the baseball operations. There was a batting cage with a pitching machine (Jugs Machine) which spit out both shaped and misshaped rubber balls. There were high ceilings so we could have a catch or work on pop flies. There was a roof over our heads and 4 walls to protect us from the New England winters, which somehow seemed a lot more wintery back then. It is supposed to be 50 something degrees later this week. I don’t ever recall a 50 degree day in January growing up, but maybe I’m wrong. Same thing at Springfield College – we had an indoor warehouse setup with pitching machine, screened off sections for pitchers and catchers, and enough space to field groundballs and get into baseball shape for the Spring trips and collegiate season. So, what I am prefacing here is that the indoor baseball facility concept was not at all recently conceived since I started writing this blog. However…
It has begun to be perfected. Facilities have sprung up, just in the last 5 years, in Tiverton and Wakefield and Pawtucket and Warwick that look like indoor sports cathedrals and indoor baseball fantasies come reality. I have visited about 20 privately owned and operated baseball/sports facilities in the past several years and have been absolutely blown away by the services they offer. Retractable screens help form the design of individual work stations that can be retracted to become team work stations. The Jugs Pitching Machine I hit baseballs off of has been ridiculously upgraded to more modern, sophisticated machines which can thrown fastballs, curveballs, and whatever else you want to train hitters to hit. Software programs like HitTrax, Rapsodo, and others line the paths and computers and Ipads stations of these facilities collecting important data to help players develop and get better. Portable pitcher’s mounds, real pitcher’s mounds with dirt, indoor turf that stretches for hundreds of yards, batting tees, soft toss netting, buckets of baseballs, shopping carts of baseballs, so much baseball equipment all around the facility. And who runs and works and coaches in these facilities???
A former professional baseball pitcher who offers advice and counsel one bullpen session at a time. A former professional baseball catcher who gives lessons on calling a quality game. A former professional baseball pitcher who owns and runs a facility in Lincoln. A physical therapist, strength coach, former college baseball player who runs and operates a baseball/sports/strength and conditioning juggernaut in Coventry. Walk onto any high school baseball field in Rhode Island in the Spring, take notice of the coaches in the dugouts, then head over to 99% of the indoor facilities here in Rhode Island and you will see them there – coaching, mentoring, instructing, teaching, scouting the next wave of players to play for them at the high school level. The coaches that work out of these Rhode Island baseball facilities are literally the Who’s Who of Rhode Island baseball coaching ranks. I have walked into a facility to see Bobby Rodericks at ATC and Ryan Westmoreland at Longplex and Mark Cahill at Hops AP and Gian Martellini at Northeast Training and Lenny DiNardo at Snapdragon Baseball doing just amazing work with players of all ages. And if you want to get better this and every off season, why not learn from the best and those who have played at the highest levels!!!
As a former player, I have to admit a bit of jealously about the facilities we have here in Rhode Island. The opportunity to play catch without wearing 19 layers and 4 pairs of socks in Dec/Jan/Feb/March, along with playing a winter sport (I encourage multi sport participation), keeping up with your school work, maybe a part time job, home responsibilities is just incredible for the Rhode Island baseball community. As I stated earlier, I have been in about 20 or so facilities here in Rhode Island and just loved my visit to each and every one of them. Plus, living in Rhode Island gives you the option to travel from your home town in Westerly to North Smithfield’s Wide World of Indoor Sports. Or if you live in Jamestown, you can visit Rhode Island Baseball Institute in about 25 minutes or less. Or if you live in Providence, the Facility of Dreams is just a few exits away in Pawtucket. And for those of you new to Rhode Island and Southern New England, here is a list of indoor facilities I have visited (in no particular order) over the past 5 years of covering baseball here in Rhode Island. Also, wanted to note that our Rhode Island Colleges and Universities have indoor facilities as well, I just don’t believe they are open to the public or without permission from the school to work out in. It is always best to check with the schools and these facilities for their hours of operations and general facilities rules.
- 365Sports, Warren, RI
- Rhode Island Baseball Institute, Warwick
- Hops Athletic Performance, Coventry
- Longplex Family and Sports Center, Tiverton
- Facility of Dreams, Pawtucket
- Ken Ryan Baseball Academy, Lincoln
- ATC Training, Pawtucket
- Upper Deck Baseball Academy, Cumberland
- Anchor Sports RI, Wakefield
- Moe Joe/Eastern Elite Baseball Academy, Coventry
- Snapdragon Baseball, Exeter
- Strike Zone Facility, YWCA Providence
- Northeast Baseball Training, Johnston
- Shark Tank, Warwick
- XLR Batting Cages, Warwick
- Wide World Indoor Sports Bubble, North Smithfield
- All About Sports, North Smithfield
- Won Sports, Seekonk, MA
- The Barn, University of Rhode Island
- Burke’s Batting, Warren
As a baseball fan and a former player, it has been absolutely incredible seeing these indoor baseball facilities sprout up all over Rhode Island and Southern New England. If I missed you, I apologize! If I got to meet you and tour your facility, thank you again for all you do for the Rhode Island Baseball Community. And one more thing to mention, these Rhode Island facilities are open NOW, so get your car started (or scream out to your parents) and your gear packed and get over there and get some swings and get a lesson or two and help support a Rhode Island business!!!
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The RIBBE is The Rhode Island Baseball Experience. It is promoting the game of baseball here in the great state of Rhode Island for the entire baseball world to see. The RIBBE is positive stories, photos, videos, and responsible social media posts. The RIBBE is an information resource for families looking for an AAU team or a summer camp or a great place to buy a first baseman’s mitt. The RIBBE is a network of coaches, tournament directors, parents, leagues, and baseball junkies whose passion of the game of baseball is unquestioned. I believe that providing expert analysis, information and directions to ballfields, and coaching advice from some of the top RI baseball minds will help promote the game of baseball here in RI to a whole new level.
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