With colder temperatures and field closings abound here in Rhode Island, baseball families are looking towards indoor sports and conditioning facilities. And with the State of Rhode Island imposing new guidelines and restrictions on indoor sports facilities, it is really important for me to inform you, the public, of the great work being done at these facilities (specifically baseball sites) to keep families safe during this Covid-19 pandemic. Can you visit a facility, know that they have met or exceeded safety guidelines, will go the extra mile to make sure you and your baseball player will be safe? That is what I looked to find out yesterday as I visited Ken Ryan Baseball Academy in Lincoln.
As I approached the entrance of KR Baseball Academy (located at 100 Higgenson Ave., Lincoln), I noticed the front door was open and signage was clearly marked on the side of the door. I read through the signage, was okay with the guidelines meaning I wasn’t sick or ill, put my mask on and walked into the facility. Signage was easy to read and pretty straightforward. Great first impression.
So, as I walked into KR Baseball, I began to hit the baseball sounds that bring music to my eyes – the CRRRACK of the bat, the THUMMMMP of the pitching machine delivering a fastball, the SMAAAACK of the baseball into the catcher’s mitt. Baseball was happening in the facility and I was eager to see how they were accommodating players and families. I began to look closer at more signage, this time it was a safety checklist from the ReOpeningRI website and some other printed materials outlining the facility’s commitment to safety. And on the stool underneath the poster of Ken Ryan (yes he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies), was a red stool with a bottle of hand sanitizer. So, before I even entered the building, there was an understanding that KR Baseball Academy was going to do their part to keep its members safe.
As I walked into the facility itself, I saw a row of batting cages, screened off, with signage on the netting. The lobby had two tables, socially distanced apart, with a blue taped line and clearly marked socially distance stickers on the floor. There was a contact tracing sign in sheet on one of the lobby tables. The walls were filled with Ken Ryan memorabilia – baseball cards, framed jerseys, baseball posters. There was an office where players and family members check in, get their temperature taken, answer important safety questions (similar to the signage), and are cleared for entry/usage in the facility. Every person in the building was wearing a face covering of some sort – mask, gaiter, bandana. The players, the coaches, the parents that dropped off their kids, even the owner Ken Ryan – all compliant, all wearing masks.
Coach Jason Harvey of Elite Physical Therapy had invited me up to KR Baseball Academy to visit the facility and spend some time with the owner, Ken Ryan. Ken greeted me after working with several of the youth baseball players from his KR Express AAU program. Jason, Ken, and I discussed how KR Baseball Academy was working through the process of keeping players and families safe. “We have 10,000 square feet of space here,” stated Ken “so we can be socially distant with our groups, our cage setups are within those 6 feet apart guidelines, we have the contact tracing down with the rosters of players that come in here.” Ken went on to mention that he has been reopened since June and “in June, we were strict. But lately, we have stepped it up even further. We added a ton of signage, temperature taking, hand sanitizer all over the facility, mask wearing of course. We want to play and coach baseball, safety first.” As we were speaking, one of the facility’s workers was cleaning up baseballs, cleaning surfaces, and practicing what the facility preached – keep all surfaces clean.
As a baseball fan, I had to take a brief pause from my original plan and just talk baseball with Ken and Jason. Ken is so easy to talk and so down to earth. Jason is so knowledgeable about mechanics and coaching. We chatted for a bit about youth baseball, swing paths, and what to do if you are in a slump. And I asked Ken how he motivates players to get into the gym in November, knowing full well that games of any significance won’t be played for months. In short, and I’m paraphrasing a bit, Ken said simply “you have to build confidence in your game and that happens with repetition. Fielding ground balls in November, breaking the mechanics of fielding to simple step by step movements, will pay big dividends in the spring. It worked for me, I was in the gym November, December, every year before going to Spring Training. I can tell a kid that because I lived it and it worked for me and my professional career.” But seriously, if you haven’t met Ken Ryan and want to hear his take on practice in the winter months, just go to KR Baseball Academy and ask him. It will be well worth the trip. And hearing it from a former professional baseball player makes it even more impactful.
KR Baseball Academy is definitely a safe place to visit this fall and winter for indoor baseball instruction. They have batting cages set up for individuals that just want to hit off a machine. You can sign up for one of their specialty classes for Pitchers, Catchers, Hitters. Or take a private lesson from Ken or one of his staff members. I saw Mike Webb working with some AAU players yesterday. Webb is an outstanding Pitcher that has enjoyed tremendous success in Rhode Island and could potentially be drafted into Major League Baseball very soon! If you are interested in learning more about KR Baseball Academy, here is how you can connect with them:
- Website – www.krbaseball.com
- Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone – 401.724.7555
- Facebook – KR Baseball Academy
Big thanks to Ken Ryan and Jason Harvey for their hospitality and their commitment to making KR Baseball Academy as a safe environment for baseball families here in Rhode Island.