Baseball is always in season at Extra Innings.
The 15,000 square-foot training facility in Bensalem tossed its first pitch in 2008 and has been a big hit in the community ever since. Extra Innings is an indoor training facility that focuses on baseball and softball. There are ten full-length tunnels, each equipped with a pitching machine. All equipment is provided, including bats, balls, and helmets.
“There’s a lot of different facets to what we do here,” explained Mike Gospodarek, who helped create Extra Innings in ’08 and currently trains approximately 125 softball players there. “We’re a training facility. We do private hitting, private pitching, private catching — focusing on many different areas of baseball and softball. Then there are family activities; we do birthday parties and tunnel rentals. We have a pro shop that is one of the bigger baseball and softball specific stores in the area. It’s always been a big goal to make this a community place.”
Extra Innings works with athletes of all ages and skill levels. Gospodarek explained that although their core group of players are ages 7 to 12, many high school and college athletes train at the facility, and even adult players use its’ services.
“Sometimes adults come in here whose wives have bought them a couple lessons. They play on Sunday mornings and want to practice more,” he said. “I really feel like we have a nice niche here. People know we’re here. We have built some great relationships with customers over the years. It’s a really great community place.”
There are currently more than a dozen instructors on staff, all of whom have extensive playing and coaching backgrounds. Take Gospodarek for example. The Northeast Philadelphia resident has coached the Philadelphia Spirit, a highly competitive fast-pitch softball team, for 15 years.
Fellow instructors include Jeff Vitale, who played for the Miami Dade North, Mercer County and Trenton State Colleges and later competed semi-professionally with the Long Island Whalers of the Empire State League. He is currently the head coach of the Harry Truman High School varsity baseball squad. Janese Davis, a fast-pitch softball hitting instructor, has a plethora of playing experience as well. After gradating from Pennsbury High School, she scored a full scholarship to compete for the Drexel University Dragons, where she graduated in 1999.
Aspiring athletes have an opportunity to train one-on-one with an instructor or rent a tunnel to practice on their own. Allison Hand, a soon to be sophomore at Archbishop Ryan High School who competes with the Ragdolls and the Lower Southampton Liberty, is a regular at Extra Innings. She can usually be found training with her father, Steve, who is also her coach at Liberty.
“We’ve been coming here for a while and it really helps her,” said Hand, adding that his daughter currently has a .348 batting average.
Many of the athletes who train at Extra Innings are experienced softball players competing at high levels of tournament ball. And starting this fall, local players can score even more experience through the Extra Innings’ first official team, an 18U fast-pitch softball squad.
There are also various clinics available, including a softball pre-tryout clinic held from Aug. 20 to 23 for ages 12 to 18. A hitting league is scheduled to begin in October.
“We offer a lot here. I like our business model,” Gospodarek said. “Some other facilities have cookie cutter methods where they train a certain way. We’re a little more flexible so that we can adhere to the kid’s different needs. We don’t force them into one line. We work with them.
“We make kids more confident,” he added. “I mean, their skills get better because of repetition, like anything else, but it’s confidence that we build.”
Extra Innings is located at 782 Haunted Lane in Bensalem. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 215-245-4450 or visit www.extrainnings-bensalem.com.