BRICK – The Brick Township Little League has gone high tech as part of its nearly $24,000 facilities renovation.
The lynchpin is a HitTrax Hitting and Pitching System, a baseball simulator which tests and measures launch angle, exit velocity, distance and other statistics on each swing.
“Games and tournaments can be played on it with screens where you can select the park to play on and watch your hit balls fly in virtual stadiums,” league president Michael Desmond said. “HitTrax is a training and entertainment system.”
New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, speaking after a Meet and Greet with Ocean Township High School graduate Keith McPherson of WFAN fame at the Baseline Social Club in Oceanport, said of the league’s use of analytics, “I don’t feel they should be beholden to them for any reason. As kids, they are going through the growth process. The biggest things at that age are having fun and learning the fundamentals. You don’t want to get too married to exit velocity and launch angles, especially at a young age.”
The indoor facility opened Jan. 6 with a Baseball Skills Clinic. A soft opening took place last Dec. 30. The project began Nov. 11 and concluded Dec. 16. It was financed with player registrations, corporate sponsorship and snack stand revenues.
“The soft opening was amazing,” Desmond said. “Players smiled. The volunteers who helped introduce the facility to them were very happy to do so. We completed the project ahead of its target date and on budget because of the drive of the volunteers to make the league the best it can be for the kids. Several volunteers worked weekends, days and nights on the project.”
Desmond said the facility needed repair.
“It began to show its age with the turf beginning to wear,” he said. “The facility was built with metal batting cages in its interior that limited training to hitting and pitching. A new, more open layout with retractable netting will provide more opportunities for fielding and throwing and many other drills. The idea of renovating the facility started about 10 years ago and over the past few years the idea gained more steam. The current group of volunteers planned and executed the idea, which took about a year of planning.”
The 6,400 square feet facility, heated by Falana HVAC, also features a synthetic turf surface, four full length hitting and pitching lanes, retractable netting for infield drills and throwing exercises, two batting tee and side toss stations. The project was completed by volunteers with help from some of their vendors and the league’s finances. Foreman Pete Tortorella, project manager Dan MacInnes and technical operations leader Glenn Steinhandler led the project. The turf was installed by Serge Verdesco, Rob Hanscom and the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters Floor Layers Local 251.
Steve Falana and Falana HVAC, Jason Burgess and Eastern Lift Truck donated their equipment and services.
“With the new configuration of the facility, we will be able to train our players with fielding and throwing exercises, not only batting and pitching,” said Tortorella, the league’s complex and field director. “The sky is the limit as far as what we can do. We did it for the kids in Brick and are very excited to see it used for baseball training.”
“What really makes our league special is the number of volunteers who we have around who not only dedicate their time to coach the kids during the season, but also use their trade skills in the offseason to complete complex projects like this one,” Desmond said. “Thank you to all of the volunteers, vendors and everyone who made it happen! The players love the facility.”
At the end of the fall season, the league began the project.
“Volunteers, past players, coaches and vendors wasted no time starting the project on the day after the last game, ripping out the old turf and batting cages,” Desmond said. “We had approximately 20 volunteers from our league, 20 volunteers from the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters Floor Layers Local 251 and four volunteers from Falana HVAC.”
Desmond said the hours working on the project were worthwhile.
“The benefits are insurmountable,” he said. “Players and coaches have more room to train. They have more options for skills training that will aid in player development, making our league more competitive with a heightened level of skills. The facility is used by our Little League players and coaches throughout the year. The players love it. Our officials and coaches run, staff and supervise the facility. Improvement will come in all forms, especially fielding and throwing.”
The league offers baseball for boys and girls ages 4-16. There is a Tee Ball Division (ages 4-6), a Farm League (ages 7-8), a Minor League (ages 9-11), a Majors League (ages 9-12) and a Juniors-Seniors League (ages 13-16). More than 600 players are expected to participate during the spring.
“We plan on conducting more clinics, events and HitTrax tournaments with our players,” Desmond said.
The administrator said interest in youth baseball is on the rise in Brick.
“It has grown over the past five years,” he said. “Last year, we had our highest participation with more than 900 players in our spring and fall seasons, the highest since 2014. We are one of the most popular Little League programs in New Jersey.”
The league’s Board of Directors are Desmond, Dylan Jaycox, executive vice president; Nicole Tortorella, first vice president; Joshua Guarda, second vice president; MacInnes, third vice president; Laureen Caggiano, secretary; Colleen Blake, treasurer; Darren McLaughlin, safety officer; Jim Baracia, baseball operations officer; Kevin Baran Jr., trustee; George Cavanaugh, director of baseball; Joe Genova, snack stand director; Steven Gerling, trustee; Jason Gonzalez, special events director; Brian Goode, strength and conditioning coordinator; John Lay, director of fundraising; Phil Reina, trustee; Brian Scott, tee ball league player agent; Mike Stewart, umpire in chief; Tortorella, field and complex maintenance director; Matthew Truex, director of player development, and John Wojnas, information officer.
Little League play was born in 1982 as the Brick National Little League at Edmund Hibbard Park. The league was renamed the Brick Township Little League in 2007 when it opened its boundaries to both sides of town in the 08723 and 08724 zip codes. Brick won the New Jersey Little League title in 1990 and 2020. It won the New Jersey Big League championship in 2016 and captured the Intermediate 50/70 New Jersey State Tournament crown in 2021.