Home Plate opens for practice this month

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

For some time, Montevideo baseball coaches Tim Epema and Brandon Raymo have been working on an idea to open a baseball and softball training facility in town. To do so, the pair would have to find not only funds, but a facility to house such a venture. In nearby Granite Falls, the baseball association built a facility, but to the Montevideo baseball coaches, a different approach made more financial sense. The two set to work talking to other stakeholders, and found partners in the project in the Watson Honkers Baseball Association, as well as Todd Ricke, Vice President at J&D Construction. “It’s been a really good relationship to bring the two organizations together to do something really positive for both of our programs,” says Coach Brandon Raymo.

The group spent the next months gathering funds, including funding from the Watson Honkers concession profits that have been saved up over time, a donation from the VFW of a net for the facility, a grant from the Montevideo Community Foundation, and a donation from the Montevideo Sports Club of an additional net. The Montevideo Baseball Association also had funding saved up from hosting the State Division Two Junior Legion tournament last summer. “You’re probably looking in the $30,000 to $40,000 range just to get this going and then once it’s going, it will hopefully be cost-neutral,” says Raymo. “Our plan is to have this facility be used by both boys for baseball and girls for softball, even though the two baseball coaches have been a big part of it. Four of our five members have girls on the softball team.”

The group first looked into purchasing a property that went up for auction, however, the building sold for more than they had hoped, and they found themselves back to the drawing board. Then, one of the committee members mentioned that Jesse Burmeister had purchased a large building in the industrial park that had some space to spare. “they talked to Jesse about renting the space from him and so actually it financially works out better for us than having to purchase a building,” Raymo says. “It’s going to be a better plan for us in the long run.”

The group, along with help from Burmeister, met at the building a couple of nights each week, working on construction walls inside, hanging additional lights, wiring up the frames the nets slide open and shut on, and bringing in the pitching machines. They hope to have turf installed in the next week as well. A pitching mound has been built to be able to be utilized in the facility as well. There are three nets total - one softball net that extends to 55 feet, and two baseball nets that extend to 75 feet. They are working on installing a keycard access system to make the facility available to members 24 hours a day. “They just have to be sixteen and older without an adult,” says Raymo. “We’re hoping for between 100 and 120 members. It’s not priced to make any money because that’s not what our goal is. Our goal is to pay for our rent, heating, that type of stuff.”

The new facility was named Home Plate after an online naming contest was held. There are two different batting nets, one for softball and one for baseball inside the facility and they hope to install turf soon.

The facility also allows the coaches to bring in opportunities such as the upcoming training for youth athletes in grades K-12 with Jordan Smith, a Willmar resident who spent time previously working within the Cleveland Guardians organization. Smith will travel to Montevideo to work with the youth for five weeks starting next week, utilizing the facility for training, rather than having to transport large numbers of youth to Willmar. “The whole point of the facility is to kind of grow our baseball and softball programs, and get kids excited for baseball or softball,” Raymo says. “We’re ready to hear the sound of the bat in here.”

To celebrate the opening of the facility and show potential members what they have to offer, the Montevideo Baseball Association is hosting an Open House at the facility, named Home Plate, on January 9th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The building is located at 1646 N. 9th St, in the Industrial district. Guests can also take the opportunity to register for membership at the Open House. “We’re hoping that by January 10th people can come in and start using it and that everything’s up and running,” says Raymo.