Looking to capitalize on what general manager Greg Minton called “baseball-loving cities” in the far East Valley, Extra Innings-East Valley is taking baseball and softball training multiple steps beyond simple batting cages.
The 25,000-square-foot indoor facility in Mesa, 3530 E. Southern Ave., opened its doors two weeks ago and offers the players the ability to improve their games in nearly every facet, often using the latest technology.
Established in 1996, Extra Innings is recognized nationally as one of the premiere indoor baseball and softball organizations. Extra Innings’ state-of-the-art training centers are dedicated to covering all the bases and fulfilling the needs of players of all ages and abilities.
The new East Valley franchise was four years in the making and is the largest of the 40 locations across 19 states. The facility features the traditional token-operated batting machines — though these versions offer the ability to adjust pitch speed and height for baseball and softball — as well as room to take infield practice and eight multi-use batting tunnels, a pitching mound and an adjustable pitching machine for individualize training.
Players and parents soon will be able to reserve tunnel time online at the facility’s website, extrainnings-eastvalley.com.
What sets this facility apart — besides the size of its space inside an old Bashas’ grocery store years ago left vacant — Minton said is its dedication to softball players and the latest technology.
“No inside facility caters to the girls; I have seven hitting areas dedicated to the girls,” said Minton, who pitched in the major leagues for 13 years from 1975-90 with the San Francisco Giants and California Angels and was an All-Star in 1982.
“And the technology is now so much better” Minton said. “If you take a camp, clinic or lesson, everything is on video and that video analysis is sent to your home computer before you get home.”
Also setting Extra Innings-East Valley apart is its list of advisory staff: seven former major leagues, including a Hall of Famer and former Cy Young Award winner. That staff includes Ferguson Jenkins, Mark Davis, Jody Davis, Steve Scarsone, Bob Didler, Bruce Hurst and Minton.
More than 1,200 people showed up to Extra Innings-East Valley’s grand opening Oct. 19, said Minton, who previously ran that now-shuttered Extra Innings facility in south Tempe, which suddenly closed in June 2011.
That facility, at 9,800 square feet, is dwarfed by Minton’s new employer. The newest Extra Innings owners, Morris and Deanna France, are not renting the new space. They purchased the building and bought out the Surprise Extra Innings, which was a team shop only. “We’re the only Extra Innings in Arizona,” Minton said.
Minton’s group will honor the balance of memberships from the old Tempe facility.
To provide all the gear, from bats to gloves and uniforms, the new Extra Innings has a 2,000-square-foot pro shop that will be fully stocked in a month with 2014 equipment and gear.
With hitting leagues for high school and senior players alike, as well as party space and plans for Saturday night babysitting, Extra Innings-East Valley has grand goals — as well as a few obstacles.
“We have to get the trust of the high school coaches,” Minton said. “I’ll never badmouth your program but give me a chance to enhance what you’re doing.”
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