New batting cage, gym built above ale house in Leaside
The Leaside Baseball Association is running an experiment with their new indoor training facility, affectionately dubbed the Lab.
It’s tucked away in the upstairs of Originals Ale House at Bayview and Hillsdale, where rep director Eric Stickney is joined by catching coach Dave Fischer and league volunteer and overseer of the renovation, Shawn Murphy.
A year and a half ago, Stickney found out Originals was downsizing, and the playroom on the second floor was part of that move.
The owners’ daughter, Kristina Morra, who also runs the Bennington Heights fundraiser to revamp the park, is close friends with Stickney and gave him the signal that it would be perfect to convert the 70-foot by 15-foot space into a training facility.
“The space isn’t built for your typical Bayview store, and because we don’t have off-the-street traffic, it was a perfect fit for a private group to utilize it,” Stickney said. “Because it was already outfitted for kids, it wasn’t too difficult a transition.”
Parents from the Leaside Baseball Association’s 14 rep teams contributed to the retrofit, done by Homerun Renovations’ owner, Murphy.
The space was formerly a Chuck-E-Cheese-style arcade. Murphy ripped out the unusable HVAC system, tore up the floor, and rewired the electrical with safety in mind.
They also brought in local artists Andrew Charles and Jan Delgado to do the tagging, complete with baseball quotes and logos.
The LBA logo is complete with a real baseball popping out from the drywall.
“When I played high-level hockey years ago, whenever we went into the dressing room we needed something, an icon, to touch,” Murphy said of the accent. “It was that kind of mentality.”
Still, Stickney assured the space is not just a batting cage which teams can use three hours a week.
“It’s going to be a learning centre as well — a high-tech lab analysis facility,” he said, with a wink. “It’s a science lab of baseball.”
A week from the Lab’s opening, Jan. 17, there will be televisions and video gear ready to video tape players’ swings, so they hone their skills. Astroturf is expected to arrive in April.
The association will also be able to hold executive meetings and umpire clinics there, in a small boardroom.
For the under-21 crowd, rehabilitation and small weights will be available for condition training. It will also be ideal for making videos for college scouting and scholarship applications.
“It’s been a long-time coming, because Leaside has been too small to support its own facility,” Stickney said. “But with the growth of the association, all the teams have pitched in to support it.”