Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)—March 25, 2012. Not many people realize that Park Forest Baseball is fortunate enough to have an indoor practice facility to use during the baseball off-season. And even more surprising to most residents would be the fact that it is located in the old Zee Honda building located at the corner of Route 30 and Indiana Street! So we are going to host an Open House at the facility on Saturday, March 31, 2012, from 2:00 – 3:30 PM.
Those who stop by will see not only the building and the changes made to the Service Bay area, but also there will be a small group of players who have chosen to be part of the Chicago White Sox Training Academy Pitch/Hit Club instructions. This has consisted of three training sessions by the Academy’s instructors on the fundamentals of the pitching, hitting, and fielding. This is the second season that Park Forest has offered this opportunity to its players and area players. PFBB subsidizes the cost to its players, making it a great deal for players. Former major leaguer Dan Pasqua, who played for the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees, works for the Academy and often is one of the instructors at these types of clinics. He has helped out with the PF training for 3 seasons now.
At this point many of you are wondering how in the world the use of this location came about. Several seasons ago the PFBB group was thinking how great it would be if we had a place to work out indoors. This was generally discussed with different individuals working for the Village, and our wish was granted! We were allowed to begin using the back of the building, as it was not currently slated for use due to the changes in the economy. We were told we could use it and make changes as we needed, but the plumbing and heat were turned off. So last season we made arrangements for a Port-A-John, after two years of warning players that there were no restrooms! And at the end of the first year, we secured heating for the winter months.
Many individuals have donated MANY hours of labor and sweat to get this running. The first thing was to remove all of the bolts that were used to secure the car lifts to the ground. This appeared to be a very large task, until a volunteer came to us with the right equipment to make this a 90-minute job. Next, PFBB set up their batting cage and brought their single-wheel pitching machine in. Again, the same person volunteered their time and their vehicle with a rising-bucket on it to hang the cage. Then the building had to be swept and cleaned up, finally laying an indoor carpet piece for the batting cage area and the fielding practice area.
Over the last three years, we have continued to make improvements. The most significant was the purchase of an Iron Mike batting machine last fall; this was a gently used piece of equipment that was no longer being used by the White Sox Training Academy due to facility relocation. Unlike the single-wheel pitching machine which needs to have each ball fed into it by hand, the Iron Mike has an on-off switch and an auto feed. Another improvement made was the painting of the walls (baseball green) so that the batters could pick up the white ball easily when it came of out of the Iron Mike. It also gave a new face-lift to the area. Indoor carpeting was replaced also, as well as all of the iron grates, where the oil drained from the Zee One days, removed and covered by plywood. Prior to last season, parents had to bring their own lawn chair to sit in while there, but last season a league member donated a sectional sofa set, living room set, and dining room set to the league and it was put in to the facility. So now there is not only available seating, but it is comfortable as well! Just recently, 13 plastic lawn chairs were also donated.
Beginning each January, the PFBB coaches and managers run clinics 1 or 2 nites a week in the evenings, where players work on the fundamentals of the game. This is especially helpful for the young T-Ball players just learning the game. When these clinics were first begun the attendance was somewhat low. But each season it has picked up and it is quite a sight to see 15-20 T-Ball players, ages 4-6, together and working on how to throw, catch, and hit. The Iron Mike machine affords the different age groups the chance to hit at the normal speed they would see in the league play, as well as increasing it so that the skill level improves. Another big advantage this building affords is that if it rains during the season when practice is scheduled, a team can come indoors and work.
When one looks at the history of this building, it is quite amazing the different uses it has had. I believe it started off as Dante’s and then changed to Henrici’s, which were both restaurants. It was also a Celebration Station at one time, which is similar to Chuck E Cheese. The last business in it was Zee One Honda. Who would have thought that it would ever be used for PF Baseball. I remember driving by it when I was young and had no idea that I would ever be involved in its use!
So come out and join us on that afternoon and see the building and what great use it has provided. We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, March 31, 2012, between 2:00 and 3:30. Take a look at a location that has a lot of history and the excitement of the future!