Young baseball players in Altona now have access to a valuable training tool to stay sharp in the off-season - a pitching tunnel.
Donovan Bergman, president of Altona Minor Baseball (AMB) says the project was sparked by a local college student who needed to throw while back at home over Thanksgiving.
"For some of those kids were in college, it's going to be big. But what the hope is you're going to be able to get kids who are going to be able to not get too rusty over the winter and then really hope that once hockey ends in March and April, we're going to get kids start to ramp up so that you're ready for the season. Your body is ready. You've been able to throw a bunch of your arms ready and just not jump right into the season. You'll be able to warm up and have a nice long runway to get ready for the season.
The project was sparked early last season when a member of the executive talked about finding ways for kids to train throughout the winter without having to travel out of town.
"We have some kids who travel to Winnipeg, some who go to Winkler, and we wanted to try and find a spot that was local, that was close, so it was easy for kids to access and in this case, also taking advantage of a space that was underutilized in our MEC here in Altona. We've got this beautiful spot in the track in between the curling rink and the hockey rink. We've had great response so far from kids coming to use it."
The price tag on the equipment was roughly $7,500, which, Bergman admits, is not cheap.
"But it was a project that was supported by the Altona Community Foundation, the town of Altona, our title sponsor - the Curtis Klassen Memorial Fund - they kicked in the majority of the funds. We had just fantastic support. Some of the exec from the minor softball here in Altona, the Altona Angel softball, also kicked in. One of the unique things about it is in Altona, for the most part, the softball and baseball programs kind of run independently. But this is something we really wanted to try and do together and that helped open up our resource base in terms of fundraising."
AMB worked with the town rec department to ensure the tunnel can handle hitting too.
"We knew we could pitch; we knew we could hit with wiffle balls or really light balls, but we weren't sure if we were going to be able to hit real baseballs or something a little bit harder. So, we tested it out and everybody's feeling good enough that we can hit live pitching in here. We're not using hardballs inside, but we're using kind of training balls. But we're able to hit, which again is a big win for us because we wouldn't have a spot like that in town anywhere to do that all winter long so it's great."
The tunnel can be booked through the town's rec department.