Former pro baseball players pass on their skills
By Jason Mackey
Published: Thursday, August 11, 2011
Neither Denny Bair nor Scott Seabol had made this pitch before.
Both recently retired from Major League Baseball, Bair and Seabol had plenty of experience playing the game, but little teaching it, before opening Three Rivers Batting Cages in Pleasant Hills seven months ago.
Still, that hasn't stopped the no-frills facility from impressing the local baseball community.
"It's the best instruction around, because it's coming from two guys who've played at a very high level," said Mike Wood, a rising senior at Pine-Richland who drives nearly 50 minutes for his weekly, one-hour pitching lesson with Bair. "It's a great baseball atmosphere."
The 2,500-foot building Bair and Seabol rent on Curry Hollow Road isn't fancy, but it covers the basics: green, turf-like carpeting; top-of-the-line Iron Mike pitching machines; a regulation-distance mound; and three batting cages.
Seabol and Bair (Allderdice), who met on a Pittsburgh AAU team 18 years ago, have brought on Gina Fuchs, an assistant coach at Pitt and a two-time All-Big Ten outfielder at Penn State, to handle softball instruction.
Three Rivers offers individual and group lessons (2-4 players). Individual baseball lessons cost $25 for 30 minutes or $45 for 60 minutes. Softball lessons run $30 and $55. Group lessons cost $20 (baseball) and $30 (softball) per player per hour.
Seabol and Bair, both 36, will begin sponsoring and assembling youth baseball teams in fall. They have plans to hold a yearly coaching seminar. Three Rivers has skill clinics every Sunday for between 25 and 30 players.
Indoor training centers such as Three Rivers — or Palladini's Field of Dreams in Bridgeville, Batting Practice in West Mifflin or the Baseball Academy of Norwin in North Huntington, to name a few — are popular in the Pittsburgh area, providing a way to prep for a season before the weather breaks.
Business at Three Rivers started strong in January, with all 21 weekly time slots accounted for, Seabol said. Patronage has tapered a bit in the summer, although that was expected since games are being played.
"Come winter, people clamor for a place like this," said Fuchs, who is offering a Wednesday night hitting clinic this month. "We're always getting asked at Pitt if we'll rent out our facility."
Seabol, a former infielder, handles the hitting and pitching instruction. Bair, who was a hard-throwing pitching prospect in the Cubs system before shoulder problems cut his career short, works with the pitchers.
"The thing that I think separates us is that we played the game, and we understand how hard it is," said Seabol, a graduate of South Allegheny High School who attended West Virginia University before embarking on a 14-year major league career. The Cardinals called him up in 2001, and the Yankees in 2005.
George Mejalli, 41, has both of his sons working with Seabol, and watched their group lesson during a recent Tuesday evening.
"Our (South Park) coaches try to do as much as they can, but they're not major-leaguers," Mejalli said. "They don't have the eye that (Seabol) does."
Added Rick Klein, 42, of Brentwood, whose three children have been taking lessons at Three Rivers since it opened: "I played college baseball at Edinboro and have a decent amount of experience, but with these two guys, you really can't argue."Additional Information:
Hope for families of missing children
In 2001, Three Rivers Batting Cages co-owner Denny Bair founded BairFind, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to finding missing children.
BairFind's mission is called Bring Home 100 • to reunite 100 missing children with their parents. To do this, Bair has each child's photo displayed on a team poster that's handed out at a baseball game.
Bair recently had a 4-by-6-foot sign hung at PNC Park that includes the pictures of 10 missing children. So far, seven minor league teams have helped recover six children.
'It brings tremendous hope to the parents of these kids because often they feel hopeless,' Bair said. 'Now, every fan that walks by the concourse at PNC Park is going to see a picture of their child.'
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