Chesterton family turns barn into training facility for local athletes
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent November 28, 2012 11:26PM
At Bases Loaded in Chesterton, employee Shelby Price prepares to take a swing in the batting cage on Nov. 16. Her parents, Mark and Denise Price, built the sports training center in a repurposed family barn and opened for business in early October.
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:55PM
They’ve racked up many miles in support of their daughter’s serious travel softball interest, so the Price family of Chesterton made a “no-brainer” decision to invest in her future locally.
Since October, when Bases Loaded sports training facility opened in a repurposed barn near the intersection of CR 100 W and CR 900 N in Liberty Twp., Mark and Denise Price have only had to travel down the street to open the doors to their new business.
And with the help of 15-year-old Shelby and their 19-year-old son Mavric, they’ve seen just how many local athletes could hit the side of their barn.
“Things kind of just came together last fall,” Denise said. “My dad (Richard Gandy) was ready to retire and I kind of thought, I wonder if we can make the barn a practice facility. First of all, I thought it, and then I mentioned it to my dad, and then I mentioned it to my son, and finally I mentioned it to Mark — because he’s the one who had to do all the work.”
The barn that now houses Bases Loaded has been in the family for 15 years, functioning as storage for a landscaping business. Before that, its history dates back to the post-World War II era, when the Ruge family built the structure. Ruge and Sons Meats is located across the street from the barn.
Bases Loaded features 12,000 square feet of heated and cooled space with a ceiling that rises up to 25 feet. A batting cage and pitching tunnel are offset from the main area, on which artificial turf covers a floor that had to be completely resurfaced.
“Everybody has worked here,” Mark, a former carpenter, said about his family’s year worth of sweat equity.
Mark, however, doesn’t sweat his new commitment, since his other business is seasonal.
“This kind of fits into the piece of pie from November to March,” he said.
The Prices built their business aiming squarely at a need that they say was clear when they looked the area’s demographics. They observed a lot of baseball and softball players making do in church and school gyms that were not designed for those sports.
“I looked at the number of teens between Chesterton, Portage and Valparaiso, and I was coming up with over 3,000 kids that are playing baseball and softball,” Denise said.
Managing a baseball and softball barn has the family in a bit of a switch-hitting situation: Mark has been the face of the family’s Instant Irrigation business with his wife being the go-to office person. Now, Denise, the only one in the family who didn’t play organized sports growing up, is running Bases Loaded.
She said she knows how to operate the pitching machine, but more valuable than technical skills are her instincts.
“This whole thing for me, I approached it from the standpoint of a mom,” said Denise, listing Bases Loaded’s features like a homework table, Wi-Fi, and a snack stand.
Does having unfettered access to a training facility give Shelby an unfair advantage over her Chesterton Cougars teammates?
“I think it’s fair,” Shelby said.
For more information about Bases Loaded, call 678-4487.