By ANDREW REINERTSEN
AllStar Baseball & Softball Virtual Cages is a small business owned and operated in Peachtree City, Georgia. Owners John Powers and Trey Smith both had a vision of what
could be when they opened their doors in January 2012. Before this, the two men had to find a building for their business.
Approaching a business called Jumping Jack Rabbits, Powers and Smith asked the owner how he felt about leasing the building to them. In order to consider it, the owner asked the two men to create a 25 page business plan explaining why they wanted to open a state of the art training facility in the area. The reason was simple.
“Young athletes today are more tech savvy on technology, so the use of pitching and hitting
simulators made practicing more realistic,” Powers said.
Their objective was to simulate a pitching or hitting experience that was second to none. After receiving the okay from the original owner and completing minor construction of
the facility, Powers and Smith installed four all-star simulated machines with projectors that projected the image of an actual person delivering the pitches on a 10-by-10 screen. Each of those machines cost an astounding $25 thousand.
“These machines are the most updated and recent technological devices on the market,” Powers said. “The Atlanta Braves currently have two machines installed and Georgia Tech has one machine, so we wanted what amateur and professional level athletes were using.”
Two of the machines are used for softball and the remaining two are set up for baseball. The softball machine’s pitch speed can be set between 40 – 70 mph while the baseball
machines can range from 40 – 90 mph.
Now that they had the facility and the machines needed to operate, Powers and Smith knew business would not just lift off right away. After installing four netted cages for the machines, they added three additional netted cages to the facility to be used for tee work or coach pitching; then they made room for two pitching lanes. But Powers knew that money would not just fall from the sky for the business.
“In our business plan we implemented, we stated that we did not plan to make any money for the first year,” said Powers. “We were going to put everything we received back into the
business and into merchandise to be sold in our retail shop at the entrance of the building.”
Creating business also meant establishing a loyal clientele base that would keep income flowing into the facility. Powers and Smith planned to surround themselves with the best and brightest individuals to give lessons and instruction to those who wanted to get better in their game. Over the course of the first 11 months of its maiden year, AllStar has begun partnering with individuals who excelled in both the game of baseball and that of softball.
That includes Monica Perry, a stud senior ace who pitches for the Florida State Seminoles. She gave pitching lessons to Little League Baseball players as well as high school softball players while she was home for summer break.
Partnering With Experience and Talent
Recently AllStar has partnered with two big-name baseball individuals with credentials that indicate just how serious Powers and Smith are about the future of their facility. Kevin
Burrell, a Major League Baseball scout for the Chicago White Sox and former professional catcher, began giving both hitting and catching lessons while also evaluating young athletes in accordance with the actual points system scale used in professional baseball.
Most recently Tommy Gregg, a former Atlanta Brave player and currently the Kansas City Royals Triple AAA affiliate club’s hitting instructor, has joined the team to give instruction to the young athletes in the Fayette, Coweta and surrounding areas. Gregg has been extremely helpful to the growth of the facility clientele as he brought many individuals whom he had been working with over the past few years, giving lessons in the basement of his home.
“It’s great!” Gregg said, talking about AllStar. “Young athletes can benefit tremendously because it is an indoor facility that can enhance your softball and baseball skills – both through private instruction with professionals in the field and through individual work with the most recent and technologically advanced machines that are available today.”
Gregg was not alone in his assessment of how AllStar has benefitted the community of young athletes in the area. A client who sends his Little League son to Gregg for hitting lessons and also holds practices at the facility with his youth baseball team spoke very highly of what AllStar has done for them. Jeff Cody started coming to AllStar shortly after its doors opened in February 2012 and he has not stopped since.
“My son Brett is always so eager to go and get some work done in the cages,” said Cody. “The facility offers a variety of things that Brett can work on to make himself a better
ballplayer aside from just hitting.” Cody went on to say that the facility is “outstanding” and that both him and Brett “never tire” of taking the time to come up to AllStar to practice. He also said that he has seen Brett evolve so much more as a young baseball player from the time they began coming to AllStar to now, nine months after they started visiting.
This was a goal that Powers and Smith had set when they envisioned what the facility could do for the community: to provide young athletes with a place where they could better their skills in baseball and softball and to give them full opportunity to make it to
the next level. This also included housing the best equipment on the market for these athletes to purchase to enhance their game.
AllStar has recently partnered with powerhouse companies like Easton, Combat, Cutter and Evoshield to help set the facility apart from other competing facilities. It has recently
completed its 2,500 square feet retail shop which includes bats, helmets, bags, gloves and athletic wear.
Though the first year of operation has been full of learning and adjusting to the growing pains of the business, AllStar has made much headway. The November client list included 110 people and it’s still growing every month. Word of mouth from clients has brought
in more people who plan to begin enhancing their skills at the facility.
AllStar has also partnered with a local fast pitch organization and it gives discounts to teams that purchase equipment in bulk. The growth has been a slow process; exactly as
Power and Smith expected when they first envisioned the facility. It now has 6 part-time employees to cover shifts during the week and has adjusted its daily hours of operation in accordance with seasonal demand. Rainy days tend to bring in a mass amount of business as local teams have discovered the benefits the facility offers them when the fields are soaking wet. Future plans of the facility are both promising and profitable.
“We hope to become the biggest fast pitch/baseball facility in the state of Georgia,” Powers said.
Though that might be a few years in the making, the instructors who have joined the team provide a foundation of expert knowledge for youth that can help take the business to the
next step. Future plans include bat demo days where clients as well as those not affiliated with the facility can come in and use the most recent bats available from top level companies such as Easton and Combat. In turn, this will bring income into the facility after purchases are made from the use of the bats.
The future looks bright for AllStar Baseball & Softball Virtual Cages as it begins to enter its
second year in business. The facility is located at 135 Huddleston Drive Peachtree City, GA 30269. Its hours of operation are Monday – Friday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information, call AllStar directly at 770-631-3303 or visit their website at www.virtualcages.com