Finding a place to practice your swing in the midst of a Chicago winter can be a challenge. But these baseball players have a new place to call home.
This is the B.I.G. Baseball Academy, short for "Best Instruction Guaranteed."
"I like that the coaches are good and it's fun," said 11-year-old Ryan Heise.
It has just opened an indoor training facility on the South Side. Founder Keronn Walker says the non-profit's goal is to allow more children the opportunity to play baseball.
"My mother helped start the Hyde Park Little League when I was a little boy and I remember playing baseball in Washington Park and hanging out with my friends, and those were honestly the best memories that I had of my childhood and I just want to give that back to my community," he said.
The former minor leaguer and University of Chicago Lab School coach started holding free camps and clinics back in 2006. He says teaching students' life lessons is as important as baseball fundamentals.
"We have to teach them something that sticks with them in their everyday life," Walker said. "So something as simple as accountability, responsibility, hard work and dedication, having eight other players depending on you."
Parents say the 3,500 square-foot facility is a great addition to the Bronzeville community.
"There's no place like this within the city of Chicago," parent O'Darie Weathers said. "I was born here on the south side of Chicago as well and I think to have this close I think is going help continue exposing the game to African American children and any other child for that matter."
Children say they are just happy to have a permanent place to play.
"I think it's a really good facility because it has three batting cages and the whole team likes to hit. When it's time to hit, we all get excited," said 8-year-old John Jackson.
So far, the B.I.G. Baseball Academy has been primarily funded through private donations. They have received no sponsorships from any of Chicago's sports teams.
They are currently seeking partnerships so they can provide more free programming for neighborhood children.
For more information: http://bigbaseballacademy.org/