Orioles Scout Gambling That Indoor Field Will Be A Hit

Klebe Mortgages Home To Set Up Practice Facility

October 17, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

When he builds it, will they come?

That's what Baltimore Orioles scout Frank J. Klebe Jr. is wondering.

Klebe has mortgaged his house and purchased the lease on a Glen Burnie warehouse, gambling that serious baseball and softball players are dreaming of an indoor baseball field where they can hone their skills this winter.

He's calling it BATT Inc. -- Baseball All The Time -- and he's hoping to have it ready for the new year.

"A serious ballplayer needs to work out 12 months a year -- maybe not every day, but he should be picking up a bat a couple of times a week during the winter," said Klebe, who lives in Pasadena. "The kids around hereare at a disadvantage compared with people in California, Florida and North Carolina."

Indoor batting franchises are beginning to spread throughout the northern United States, Klebe said, but the closestpublic facility to Anne Arundel is on Security Boulevard in Baltimore County.

The BATT range will include two baseball batting machines, a slow-pitch and a fast-pitch softball machine and concessions allpacked into a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in the Glen Burnie Business Center (across from Michael's on 8th Avenue).

The baseball and fast-pitch softball machines can throw accurately up to 90 miles per hour, Klebe said.

Over the past nine years, Klebe has coached baseball at Glen Burnie High School, the Community College of Baltimore, Catonsville Community College and in the minor leagues for the Oriolesand Cleveland Indians.

He says instruction and tips on the fundamentals of hitting are crucial for anyone taking swings in his battingcage.

"Its not just hitting, but how you approach hitting that wewant to work on," according to Klebe.

"Sure you took your swings,but did you work on your bunting? Hitting the other way? Hitting behind the runner? Did they practice on hitting the outside or inside pitch? That's what we want to work on."

"When you just pump dollars into a machine without a coach around, you can develop bad habits because you get tired,"pitched in Robert Lilliock, an assistant coach atCatonsville Community College and one of two local hitting instructors who have agreed to help out at BATT.

A round of 15 pitches willcost $1, but Klebe is hoping to build his business around annual memberships.

Until Christmas, Klebe is offering a year's membership, including unlimited pitches and priority at any hitting clinics, for a 25 percent discount.

Kids 15 and under can get a membership for $112; adults 16 and older, $187. Klebe, a longtime fixture in the local youth leagues, is guaranteeing refunds on the memberships if his venture fails.

Glen Burnie Boys Baseball League coach John Gahan, who has sent a lot of kids to camps run by BATT Inc., said Klebe is reliable and has "been a lot more competitive in price" than other people who have run winter training camps.

"I think it'll work. The high-schoolers will really eat it up when they hear about it," Gahan said.

Harry Lentz, the head coach of the state champion Northeast High Eagles, USA Today's top-rated high school baseball team in 1991, says the indoor facility is needed in North County.

"There's a hard-core group of kids from high school and college who would like to hit in the winter if they had a chance."

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