The weather's turning frightful so baseball and softball players are looking for an indoor home where they can keep their skills sharp.
In Mount Pleasant, Starting Nine Baseball Academy, 6201 Regency West Drive, is welcoming local ball players with open arms, including one in the pros.
Nate Mikolas, an outfielder in the New York Yankees organization, is using Starting Nine this offseason to prepare for spring training. Mikolas, who was drafted in the third round in last year’s MLB draft out of Bradford High School, likes the atmosphere at Starting Nine and how owner Jim Broadway makes teaching fun.
“I picked Starting Nine as my place to hit during the offseason because it has everything that I need to prepare myself for spring training,” Mikolas said.
Not only does Mikolas work on his own game at Starting Nine, he also volunteers and gives lessons to younger players. Mikolas likes that he has a chance to give back.
“As a child I always looked up to guys playing in college or professional baseball,” Mikolas said. “Now that I have played a year in pro ball, I want to pass on information that I have learned. I enjoy helping others because I want to be a mentor to kids in this area.”
Jim Broadway, owner and director of player development, along with his four other coaches, are hard at work giving lessons to local athletes. The facility is home to six batting cages and an area to workout.
Although baseball and softball don’t start their seasons until the spring, it is important for players to continue to work out during the offseason. Facilities like Starting Nine Baseball Academy give players a chance to do so.
Starting Nine isn’t just for the young players chasing their dreams, though. Broadway said there is a group of men ages 55 and older that comes in on Wednesday nights to hit. It doesn’t matter what type of baseball background you have to Broadway, he just wants to teach baseball.
“If you’re age five to 95, I’ll work with you,” Broadway said.
Broadway coached baseball at Bradford High School in Kenosha for seven years. He served as the freshman team’s coach his first two years before moving up to the varsity team where he was the hitting coach. In 2008, the team won the state championship.
“Being in a northern climate, it’s very restrictive for these boys,” Broadway said. “They really can’t get any throwing in unless they come to here or they go through their high school. And most high schools you know their gymnasiums are so full of basketball, wrestling and everything else, baseball gets pushed to the side and there’s no gym space.”
Broadway spent two more years at Bradford before deciding to move on and pursue having his own facility. He opened up Starting Nine in April of 2010.
“It was time,” Broadway said. “I have a cage set up in my backyard, I was doing it for five years prior in my backyard. Just kind of doing lessons only in the summer.”
While Broadway admits his childhood dream was to play pro ball, he said, “This is the greatest job ever invented.” Broadway likes the fact he gets to give back by teaching the game of baseball.
“It’s what I love to do,” Broadway said. “It’s what I’m meant to do.”
Kyle Jones, 17, a senior outfielder at Tremper High School in Kenosha, is one of the many high school players who use the facility.
Jones said he makes the 30-minute drive to Starting Nine from his home in Kenosha a few times a week depending on his work schedule. Jones said he enjoys coming to Starting Nine because of Broadway.
“He’s really personable,” Jones said. “He knows what he’s talking about and it’s nice because you have access to the facility all the time. He provides great opportunities.”
Jones, who has been using the facility since mid-July, said he has seen improvements in his game. He said he has more power when hitting at the plate.