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Local indoor centers develop basic baseball/softball skills

Student receives batting instruction at Woodbridge Community Youth Center indoor facility. COURTESY PHOTO

Student receives batting instruction at Woodbridge Community Youth Center indoor facility. COURTESY PHOTO

Courageous Inc., Woodbridge Community Center and Esperanza Detroit facilities help players develop basic skills

By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen

For many baseball and softball players, an indoor facility is a necessity to develop skills before and after the season.

Many prep sandlot players who attend high school, public and private, in the metropolitan suburbs, usually have a facility where they can work on basic skills and fundamentals of the game.

For student athletes in Detroit Public Schools, that was a problem. Many had to wait until February or March to help develop those skills. While practice in the summer and fall are options, inclement weather can hamper progress of practice. Winter months are a no go. Unless DPS baseball and softball players could get to the suburban indoor centers, chances of sharpening their skills were slim to none, until now.

A new indoor facility in northwest Detroit will be scheduled to open in September. There are two other centers already in full operation. There’s one in the Midtown-Woodbridge area and another in southwest Detroit. These facilities will help DPS baseball and softball players stay in step or even get a leg up on their suburban and Catholic opponents.

The facility in northwest Detroit will be at the Courageous, Inc. Youth Center, located at 12925 Auburn, south of Schoolcraft and east of Evergreen.

The baseball indoor facility will be a part of several indoor facilities to help youth players practice their hitting, pitching and fielding. Pitching machines will be part of the developmental skills.

The center was founded and developed by Keith Williams, a former Wayne County commissioner and Detroit high school athlete. Williams says the center is a must have because the majority of Detroit student athletes have to travel to the suburbs to indoor facilities to practice their baseball/softball skills.

“Baseball requires strength and conditioning,” Williams said. “It also requires total concentration on the play at hand. They will get that hand.”

The center will also have a three-lane, 40-meter track to allow the players to work on their speed.

The DPS high schools in the area of the Courageous, Inc center that will have access to the center are Cody, Henry Ford, Communication Media Arts, Renaissance and Mumford.

Woodbridge Community Youth Center

In the Midtown-Woodbridge area, the Woodbridge Community Youth Center, located at 1200 West Canfield between Trumbull and the John C. Lodge Service Drive, has the Woodbridge Baseball Academy for all youngsters in elementary, middle and high school.

The center, in operation for three years, has two gymnasiums to run baseball practice skills. There’s one gym upstairs and another on the main floor. On the first floor, there’s turf carpet where players work on fielding, throwing and speed. The upstairs gym has a batting cage to work on hitting and pitching.

During the winter months, the center runs a clinic with five different stations each  lasting 50 minutes: hitting, fielding, throwing/pitching, speed and chalk talk.

“We’re trying to develop the hands and balance for fielding,” said Michael Wilson, director and head baseball coach of the Woodbridge Community Center. “We teach the player to bring the ball to his or her chest in order for the player to make the proper throw”

Although the academy is open for boys and girls 5-12 years old, the center offers individual training for players between 14-17 years old as well as junior college and college players.

High school teams have used the center’s indoor facilities as well. Currently, teams from Martin Luther King, Cass Tech and Renaissance use the facility during the winter months. Teams from Southeastern, Crockett Tech and Finney have also used the facility.

“Baseball teaches humility and character development,” Wilson concluded. “It teaches more life skills than any other sport.”

Esperanza Detroit

On the southwest side of the city, Esperanza Detroit uses baseball to enhance the lives of youth in the area. Inside Esperanza Detroit, located at 2442 Michigan Ave., south of I-75 and north of the old Michigan Grand Central Train Station, is an indoor batting facility. Esperanza Detroit uses it as part of its baseball enrichment program. It’s also available for prep.

The three-year old facility is about 100 feet long and 55 feet wide. It accommodates many area teams. The facility has a cement floor with infield-type turf. There is a small batting cage, pitching area, pitching machine and field area where players can work on fielding ground balls.

The DPS teams in the vicinity of the indoor facility are Western International and Cass Tech. Other schools in the area are Cristo Rey (formerly Holy Redeemer) and the Caesar Chavez Academy.

In addition to Western International, Mumford, King and Cesar Chavez baseball and softball teams have all used the facility.

“We like to give other teams a chance to use the facility because we want all the kids to benefit from baseball,” said Mike Vazquez, one of the directors at Esperanza. “It’s important to develop skills to play better and provide the opportunity to learn the game.”

In addition to the high school squads, youth squads from the Detroit Bees and travel squads from the Detroit Dreamers and Detroit Drive use the facility to develop and work on fundamentals.

“Not only is the game taught, but we (also) emphasize life skills and the importance of an education so the kids can be successful in life,” Vazquez said. “The center is also an alternative to the streets where many kids can get into trouble. We teach them how to be successful in life, not just baseball.”

Contact information for indoor baseball facilities:

Courageous, Inc.
12925 Auburn
(South of Schoolcraft)
Detroit, Mich. 48223
Contact: Keith Williams
313.215.4121

Esperanza Detroit
2442 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, Mich. 48216
Contact: Mike Vazquez
313.638.1247

Woodbridge Community
Youth Center
1200 Canfield
(North of Trumbull)
Detroit, Mich. 48201
Contact: Michael Wilson
313.832.4770

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