Ah, I can almost feel the sun's rays now: The crack of the bat, the pop of the catcher's mitt, sunflower seed spittle on my shirt, peanut shells in my shoes. All I need now is a good chance at a foul ball and some needle and thread to reattach my frostbit finger.
An indoor baseball training facility might be helpful too. Well, now Lawrence has a major new facility that is open to the public. Four area couples have banded together to open an indoor baseball and softball training facility in a former warehouse in south Lawrence.
Team Performance opened its doors at 1811 W. 31 St. — it used to be the home to electrical supply wholesaler Western Extralite near 31st and Ousdahl — on Saturday.
"We had more than 100 kids through the facility this weekend, and that was just completely word of mouth," John Delfelder, one of the partners in the facility, said. "We think demand for it is going to be really high."
The idea is that teams and individuals need a place to practice their skills when the weather is not cooperating or when access to field space is limited. The new facility has about 10,000 square feet of turf space, six batting cages that can be adapted for either baseball or softball and two pitching lanes that also can work for either baseball or softball.
Teams or individuals can rent practice time in the facility. Individuals can rent space in a batting cage or pitching lane for $15 for 30 minutes or up to $35 for 90 minutes. Team options range from about $70 to $180 for a 90-minute session, depending on what parts of the facility teams want to use.
The new business was formed by four couples who all either have children playing in baseball or softball or who have long histories with the sports: John and Laine Delfelder; Jim Moore and Allison Vance Moore; Aaron and Sarah Clopton; and Christy and Jarad Cruse.
"I've been thinking about doing this for a few years now," said Jim Moore, who will continue to work as a financial adviser in Lawrence as well. "As our kids have gotten older, we've definitely seen the need. You hate to have to start over on all the fundamentals at the beginning of every season because there hasn't been a place to practice."
Moore said he hopes the business will offer several clinics and camps throughout the year, including coaching clinics that will feature college coaches who will serve as instructors.
Delfelder said the facility also has space set aside for agility training for baseball and softball athletes. The business hopes to have an instructor in place for that program soon, he said.
Hours of the business are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
In other news and notes from around town:
• On snowy days like we had this weekend, I guess you can understand why you are seeing more Lawrence police officers patrolling in SUVs instead of the standard police sedans. That's a trend that began about a year ago, and it looks like it is one that will continue in 2014. City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will approve the purchase of 12 new police vehicles for 2014, and nine of them will be of the SUV variety.
The city will spend $241,018 on the nine Ford Police Utility Interceptors, or $26,773 per vehicle. The city will spend $74,937 on the three Ford sedans, or $24,979 per vehicle. By the way, Lawrence-based Laird Noller Ford won the bid for both sets of vehicles. Actually, Shawnee Mission Ford bid a slightly lower price for both sets of vehicles. But since Noller's bid was within 1 percent of Shawnee Mission's bid, the city is able to evoke a local preference clause in its purchasing ordinance in order to do business with a Lawrence-based company.
You’ve probably noticed a couple of SUV police vehicles on the streets.
Well, you will see more of them in the coming months. (Or perhaps you are a terrible driver and don’t notice police vehicles, in which case I predict higher numbers for the city’s ticket totals in 2013.)
City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting are set to set to approve a bid for eight more of the Ford Police Utility Interceptors. Commissioners are set to approve a bid from Shawnee Mission Ford of $25,700 each for the vehicles.
As we reported last month, police officials said the utility vehicles performed very well in the snow storms, and the purchase price of the SUVs is about the same as the more traditional models.
I’m not sure how the SUVs — they are actually fairly small for a utility vehicle — do on fuel mileage compared to the standard police car, but some reviews I’ve read indicate that SUV police vehicles are about 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the old Crown Victoria Police Interceptor vehicles that are still a part of many fleets.
No word yet on what percentage of Lawrence police fleet is expected to be comprised of the SUVs in the future.