Playing baseball in the middle of winter may not sound too appealing to some, but for area youth who aspire to become better baseball players, they do so regularly at the Triple Play Academy.
Since its opening in August, the academy has played host to many ballplayers who want to improve their skills. Students can take one-on-one private lessons with a coach or semi-private lessons, where two kids come in and receive instruction from a coach and split the cost.
Tim Lewis, 13-year-old student at West Junior High School, began attending the academy this fall because it offers him a better perspective on some of the finer points of the game.
"I can get new information and get better here," Lewis said. "I think I've learned a lot."
Andy Urban, sophomore at Lawrence High, has been attending the Academy for the past two months.
"I come here twice a week, and I really look forward to coming here," Urban said.
Prior to coming to the Academy, Urban took private lessons at another location, but after hearing about the Academy from some of his friends, he decided to give it a try.
Urban already has seen the improvements in his game.
"I've noticed changes in both pitching and hitting," he said.
With the help of coaches Matt Duncan and Kevin Wheeler, both former baseball players at Kansas University, Urban has improved his batting mechanics and has noticed an increase in bat speed and power. His pitching velocity increased from 74 to 80 mph.
"A lot of kids that age want to throw hard," Duncan said. "But they go about it the wrong way. Velocity is very important, but at the same time a lot of velocity is a direct result from your mechanics."
Duncan said they are not trying to get kids to throw 95 mph fastballs, but rather teach proper mechanics and arm speed to help locate pitches with that much velocity.
"We're gonna hit a lot of main points," Duncan said. "We're not trying to make every pitcher the same pitcher. Each kid brings a different challenge and different talents."
With improved skills, Urban hopes to accomplish one particular goal this season at LHS.
"I want to make JV this year. That's my goal," Urban said.
Helping kids reach their goals - big or small - is what Duncan and Wheeler hoped to accomplish with the Academy.
"We both played and coached at the college level so it's a great opportunity to give back to these kids," Duncan said. "We've coached and played at the level they're trying to get to. And we're trying to do the best we can to accommodate them to get to that level."
While playing at Kansas has helped Wheeler now as a coach, he also learned a thing or two from having worked at the Bucky Dent Baseball School.
"I picked up a lot of mechanical stuff that benefited me," Wheeler said. "And I know it will benefit these kids, whether they're just trying to make a high school team or playing college some day."
And whether it be high school, college, little league or pro, the game of baseball is always a hot topic of conversation at the Academy.
"Oh, it's fun," Wheeler said. "We love talking baseball. We have a lot of great parents come in and we talk baseball. It's a nice place to hangout."
While spending time chatting about baseball is valuable to those at the Academy, Wheeler knows they still have a job to do.
"We definitely work hard but still keep it fun."