As a member of the Hillsdale College Softball Team, I give recruits tours around campus. But when I show them the softball facilities in the elementary school, I try to move them out as fast as possible. I walk the recruits down to the state of the art baseball barn sandwiched in between the baseball and softball fields.
Inside the barn are three large drop down nets, lockers, hundreds of baseballs, and an array of bats for the choosing. Several different contraptions are near the door which are meant to call strikes on pitchers and calculate the form of hitters.
This, I explain, is where we hit.
What I don’t explain is that we really do most of our hitting in the dusty gym in that old school we briefly glimpsed.
Our home “Sunny” Johnny Williams Field is good, but the team will not realize its full potential until it can practice in better facilities.
The classic elementary school gym we hit in is officially called The Stanton Foundation Center for American Classical Education. What is a softball team doing practicing in a makeshift office building ?
There is a stage with curtains, and a small basketball court with one drop down cage taking up half of the space. We place small rugs around the gym so when we swing we won’t slip, and put weights down on the back of the popup nets so they don’t fall down — yet they still do. Rearranging our stations takes time away from swinging not to mention, slipping every swing is not very game-like.
To make up for the lack of swings off the tee, we set up hitters back-to-back in the cage to take batting practice, hoping they don’t hit another.
The pitchers use this facility too. They set up mats with weights in an attempt to create a throwable ground.
Before we had The Stanton Foundation Center for American Classical Education to hit in, two years ago, our hitting schedule was at the mercy of the baseball team. To a degree it still is.
Hitting in The Stanton Foundation Center for American Classical Education has allowed us to avoid late night and random practice times, as we would just hit whenever the baseball team was not using their barn. But regularity aside, The Stanton Foundation Center for American Classical Education doesn’t allow for our best performance.
Because our facility has only one small cage, reps are not only limited but the barn is still the only place we can take live at bats against our pitchers.
So, once a week we spend time in the barn often past 9 p.m. losing sleep just to see pitches.
Yet with this set up, we in 2018 and 2019 we won back-to-back G‑MAC Championships. In 2021, we made it to the semi-final championship of the regional conference — the longest run any Hillsdale softball team has ever made.
But we are capable of so much more.
Last February, we travelled down south and faced off against North Georgia University. Upon arrival we warmed up in their own hitting barn. There were hundreds of fresh softballs, brand new tees, and two giant drop down cages inside. The added perks included a bathroom, a stereo system, and a locker room on the second floor.
Two hours later, the NCAA Division II 2018 National Champions defeated us in a pair of five-inning games 18 – 2 and 14 – 2.
If we had a hitting facility like theirs, or even more like the baseball team at Hillsdale College, we would be much more successful as a team.
Look at what we have done so far just by using an elementary school and six buckets of balls that are one hard hit away from bursting at the seams. Our swings would be more game like, we could get more in.
The possibilities are endless, and obvious — a national championship.
We once took a top recruit — a pitcher who would elevate the success of our program — to The Stanton Foundation Center for American Classical Education to watch a practice.
The next day she committed to Division I university.