As a hobby, for recreation, as a possible career, a way to bond with friends and family or for fun—no matter the reason, baseball and softball are sports that bring people together.
With the famous Babe Ruth quote “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” that can echo in many players’ heads, it serves as a reminder that trying and hoping for the love of the game are more important than the failures or losses that come with the attempt. Extra Innings-East Valley hopes the people who come to them for lessons, camps or to have fun, are willing to try and with practice and encouraging instruction, improve.
Extra Innings-East Valley, located in Mesa at 3530 E. Southern Ave., offers lessons, camps for children ages 6 or older. The facility has batting cages and tunnels to practice batting, pitching the fielding for baseball and softball.
“I like seeing the kids get better and have fun, so that’s the biggest reason we started doing this,” said owner Morris France.
Part of that improvement is due to the instructors at Extra Innings.
Baseball instructor Tim Unroe said the instructors are encouraging with the people they work with. He has worked with kids who have never swung a bat, to kids who are experienced players who are preparing to tryout for high school or college teams. Although he has worked with people with different skill sets, Unroe said his job as an instructor is to encourage that person to be the best player they can be.
“One example, there was a mother that came in and she had two sons doing lessons and I sat down and talked to her for a while and she said, ‘Have you ever seen a kid that was just so bad at baseball that you just told the parents, ‘he’s not a baseball player, you shouldn’t be doing this.’
“My response was, ‘That’s not my job,’” Unroe said. “My job is not to decide who plays or who doesn’t play, my job is to get that player as good as he can possibly be to be able to have fun playing that sport.”
Extra Innings has an influx of people coming in for lessons throughout the year; especially when baseball and softball season start. Unroe said they are very busy helping train people for tryouts.
France said an advantage in coming to Extra Innings to learn or train, is they have good instructors, like Unroe, who can teach kids who want to learn. In addition, France said their batting cages and tunnels give people an area to have fun and they have a pro shop that supplies pretty much everything people might need for baseball and softball.
The facility also offers training for kids who are interested in softball and baseball by hosting week-long camps in March. This year’s camps are going to be March 13-17. Unroe said the camps usually involve kids ages 7-15 and runs for four hours each day from, about 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Unroe said they will break up the kids by experience level, usually close ages and partner them up to ensure everyone gets instruction based on their talent level.
“That way we can customize the camps to the kids and the kids who are beginners we can teach them the basics, make sure they have the proper fundamentals and then the kids who are more experienced, we can teach then more advanced techniques in baseball and give them a little edge to get into tryouts for their season,” Unroe said.
Early in the week, Unroe said they start with the basics, like stretching and agility and work their way up to hitting, fielding and base running.
“I want the kids to know that there’s no shortcuts…you have to put the work in,” he said.
When athletes work with instructors for awhile, they improve, which Unroe said is gratifying for him. He gets to see the parents watch their kids progress.
To learn more about Extra Innings-East Valley’s training facility, to register for one of their spring camps or sign up for lessons, visit: ExtraInnings-EastValley.com.
– Mesa resident Alyssa Tufts is a freelance reporter for MyNewsMesa.