Play ball

A look at Ex­tra In­nings, a base­ball train­ing fa­cil­ity in Ben­s­alem.

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-ben­s­

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