RED LION -- One step inside and it can be felt almost immediately. The feeling of being at a baseball stadium. Well, an indoor stadium at the very least.
It's exactly what former York Revolution slugger Jason Aspito envisioned when he first toured the property in October.
What used to be a pre-school has now be turned into an indoor baseball and softball facility at 201 South Charles Street in Red Lion Borough. The official name of the facility -- Backyard University -- might be a little confusing, but Aspito has a logical reason for it.
"Everything I did growing up was out in the backyard with my brothers and my dad," Aspito said.
A native of Chicago, Aspito has lived in York County the last five years. Since retiring professionally from the game after the 2009 season, the now 34-year-old Aspito married his wife, Erin, in September of 2011 and has been coaching the Penn State York men's baseball team the last two seasons.
"I started giving hitting lessons (in York) before the 2008 season with kids. I just thought that they needed an indoor training facility to work out of," Aspito said. "It has been a goal of mine since I was in college to have something like this."
Backyard University will hold a grand opening Jan. 26 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Aspito, longtime York Revolution pitcher Corey Thurman, former Revs' pitcher Daryl Harang and former Revs' outfielder Matt Padgett will provide lessons to whoever shows up that day.
Located just up the road from Red Lion High School, the facility features roughly 13,000 square feet of space for batting and pitching practice. A former gymnasium is now a turf field, surrounded by walls painted to represent an outfield fence. Offices and classrooms have been converted into pitching tunnels and batting cages.
One noticeable thing missing are pitching machines.
"I'm not a big believer in machines," Aspito said. "With what I've seen and experienced, your mechanics break down and your fundamentals break down. If we can control with t-ball work, front toss and batting practice, hitters in general get more out of that."
Backyard University is a project that has been in the works since October, when Aspito and Glen Rock resident Ken Holcomb purchased the property. Holcomb, a father of four who also owns Maryland-based Castlewood Tree Service, has provided most of the funds for the project.
Aspito will run the day-to-day operations, which includes providing lessons and clinics. Thurman, Harang and Padgett will also be available to provide lessons.
Aspito and Holcomb have plans to create a travel baseball and softball program for children ages 8 to 16, with the idea of using Backyard University as its home practice facility. The facility will also be available for other sports, including football, soccer and kickball.
"We're even thinking of renting it out for birthday parties," Holcomb said.
Backyard University is believed to be the third of its kind in York County, joining the indoor facility at the YMCA in York and the recently-opened Gold Glove Academy in North Codorus Township, which is co-owned by former Revs' manager Chris Hoiles.
"It's gonna make baseball and softball better for the county," Aspito said.
For more information on the grand opening or the facility, visit www.backyard-university.com or call Aspito at 630-297-2452.
--Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.