Monday, December 15, 2008

Taking A Swing At Teaching Baseball

"A few years ago, Pat McDonough was looking for a place where his son's baseball team could practice indoors. ‘We ended up in the horse barn at the Ozaukee County Fairgrounds,’ McDonough said. Combine that experience with his gathering weariness of having to meet ever-higher sales goals in the paper industry and McDonough decided he wanted to do something on his own. He has opened the state's first franchise of Frozen Ropes, a baseball and softball instruction business for everyone from preschoolers to high school and college players. The business is a franchise of Chester, N.Y.-based Frozen Ropes. A frozen rope is a baseball term for a hard-hit line drive, so-called because of the low and straight path it takes, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., citing The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary. McDonough is quick to point out the business is not a family fun center or batting cage. The business has 13,000 square feet of ‘turfed facilities’ in a building that once housed a vending machine company. The goal of the company is to help baseball players improve their skills, with the philosophy that players who are comfortable with the game's fundamentals get more enjoyment from playing. The facility also seeks to instill fitness habits among young people amid an epidemic of childhood obesity, McDonough said. McDonough is tapping into what appears to be a growing market. One of the fastest-growing trends in the fitness industry is involving children in exercise, said Rosemary Lavery, spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. ‘We want to build the love of the game,’ he said. That philosophy has gained notice. ‘That's just something that is held in high regard - at least in amateur baseball,’ said Betty Rulong of the American Baseball Coaches Association. McDonough compared the instruction skills program at his business with any other after-school or extracurricular activity. ‘When you enroll your child in piano lessons, you're not trying to develop a virtuoso,’ McDonough said. Indeed, some of the programs for the youngest players include bases that honk. Birthday parties are also part of the franchise's offerings. ‘This is not about turning players into major leaguers,’ said Jason Infusino, the franchise's senior instructor.”

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