Though they operate more than 200 locations in upwards of 30 states, the team behind U.S. Baseball Academy aims to make each young athlete's experience a personal one. Their four- or six-week camps are taught by local instructors who are current or former coaches at the high school or college level, and typically offer a 6:1 or better player-to-teacher ratio for intense, professional-style training. The Academy's proven itinerary of hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning drills was developed by an advisory board of college coaches and Major League players, including Cy Young Award?winner and ace pitcher Brandon Webb.
At 5-Tool Sports Training Center's 7,000 square-foot, air-conditioned facility, David Collings—a former scholarship player at Andrew College and the University of West Georgia—leads a team of specialized instructors whose collective experience includes minor-league play and collegiate-level coaching. Together the team shapes young baseball players with results-oriented clinics, including a pitching program designed after those used by major-league franchises and the Chinese national team. Other sessions range from summer camps that cover all aspects of the game to position-specific clinics, such as introductory and advanced catching with Mike Day––a four-time College World Series catcher who went on to play with the Montreal Expos.
To keep their skill set sharp, athletes can schedule time in one of four 55-foot hitting cages, two of which boast Iron Mike pitching machines or two dedicated pitching lanes. Private instruction gives kids individualized feedback, and a video-analysis room allows them to see the errors in their swing or the understated chicness of swapping out a cap for a beret.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Robert Herzog dropped off his laundry, picked up his mail, and took the local C train to work instead of the express A train. When he arrived for work at the north World Trade Center tower that morning, nearly 300 of his coworkers were dead. Stunned by his inexplicable escape from death, Herzog battled through his trauma by focusing on the good things in his life. Earlier that year, he met his wife-to-be playing coed softball. He had enjoyed the league but felt he could do better. Tempered by the sense of charity and community that was so ubiquitous after September 11, he opened ZogSports—a sports league that donates 10% of its profits to charity—in 2002.
Since then, leagues have spread from New York and the northeast out to Atlanta and the Twin Cities. Casual competitors in their 20s and 30s team up in touch-football leagues and indoor-volleyball leagues, making new friends on the field, at postgame happy hours, and at preseason press conferences.
When teams sign up for ZogSports's leagues, they choose a charity to represent. From there, teams compete to win the league championship, come up with the funniest team name, or order the most drinks at the bar after the game, all of which earn them money for their charity of choice. To date, the company has donated more than $1.5 million to various charities.