Unlike most commercial batting cages, coins are not used to operate the machines that hurl balls at Bat, Battery and Biceps, a training center for young baseball and softball players in the East Valley.
"We don’t want to be considered an amusement facility," said John Gywnn, coowner with his wife, Cindy and other family members. "That’s why we steered away from using coins."
Instead, young batters press a button outside of the webbed batting cage, which automatically starts the mechanical pitcher at the other end.
The eight batting cages are part of three basic areas at the new training center at 5222 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert.
The others include two pitching tunnels that are 12-feet high, 12-feet wide and 70-feet long areas used to train young pitchers and catchers and an "Explosive Training" section where athletes receive physical training.
John, 59, and Cindy Gywnn, 42, opened Bat, Battery & Biceps less than two years ago for three primary reasons: To earn income, to provide a training center for their up-and-coming baseball playing son, Michael, 12, and to help other young athletes, mostly baseball and softball players, fine-tune their playing skills.
Thus far, the center has attracted more than 2,600 paid members and is growing.
"We’re not making a lot of money yet, but we’re connecting with the community and we’re helping a lot of young players — and their parents — improve themselves," said John, an electrical engineer.
"And we’re getting a lot of personal satisfaction by helping others," said
Cindy Gywnn, a certified physical therapist. "From that perspective, we’re very successful."
The Gywnns opened their center near the intersection of Higley and East Baseline roads after John Gywnn, an executive with the Southwestern Technology Division of Bulova Technologies in Phoenix, was asked by his company to return to Pennsylvania.
At the time, their son was already involved in Little League and the Gywnns — like many Valley Little League parents — were travelling several hours each day to-and-from batting cage areas.
They decided to combine their parental-needs, their financial and health experiences and start a new business — and remain in the East Valley.
They selected Gilbert because of the growing population, including young families with baseball and softballplaying children, and signed a lease for a then-empty, 16,000-square foot building.
John Gywnn, who served from 1970 to 1975 as an electrical maintenance officer aboard the USS Midway stationed off Vietnam, designed the interior, including the elevated batting cages, lighting and electrical work.
The retired Navy lieutenant, an expert in electronic controls, invited other family members to join the new company, including his daughter, Michelle Crandall, his son and Cindy’s parents.
"We were so involved with Michael and Little League and, partly because of that, decided to start Bat, Battery & Biceps so we would have a training center, for batting, pitching, catching and physical training for our son," said John, who said future franchises are possible but tentative because they would require "dedicated" people willing to become involved, not just investors.
The Gywnns have several former professional baseball players who train the youngsters, including Brett Caradonna, 26, of Gilbert who played outfield from 1997 to 2003 for a minor league team of the Chicago White Sox.
"The sooner they learn the basics of the game of baseball, the better they’ll be later," said Caradonna, who teaches hitting and catching.
Cindy Gywnn, whose physical training program is a major part of the center, said young baseball players should not try to develop bulky muscles by heavy weight-lifting
"They need long, lean muscles," she said. "So we focus our physical training programs to help them develop and grow."
Kelly Klei, whose son, Greg, 12, is a pitcher for the Highland Junior High School team in Mesa, regularly brings him to the center.
"Dads and uncles and guys want to help train the kids, but they usually all have different approaches," said Klei, a broker who lives in Gilbert.
"I’d rather have a professional batting coach and not a dad who played years ago in high school," said Klei. "Financially, its worth every penny."
John and Cindy Gwynn
Family: Son, Michael, 12; daughter, Michelle Crandall
Resides in: Red Mountain Ranch, Mesa; Michelle lives in Fremont, Calif.
Business: Owners of training center for aspiring baseball and softball players, Bats, Battery & Biceps, 5222 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Key achievement: Started a training center aimed primarily at young athletes and in less than two years has 2,600 members and is growing