PAWTUCKET --- You can tell a business is booming when after three months in operation, the owners have been so busy that they haven’t found the time to plan a Grand Opening ceremony.
That’s been the case with the ownership group of DH Hitting, LLC, a baseball and softball indoor training facility on 70 Vineyard St. in Pawtucket that opened its doors last Nov. 16 and hasn’t slowed down since the very first swings were taken in their batting tunnels.
Davies Tech softball coach Scott Cooper, his father, Ray Cooper (a football and hockey coach at Tolman throughout the 1980s), and former Exeter/West Greenwich High softball coach Steve Hoard are the proud owners of DH Hitting, and all three are focused on the same goal — giving softball and baseball players of all ages and levels (from the area and beyond) an opportunity to sharpen their talents year-round.
“I’ve had a lot of kids coming here everyday since we opened our doors,” Scott Cooper said during a break in his hectic schedule on Thursday afternoon in the spacious hallway of DH Hitting. “I’ve had teams come here from as far as Norton, Mass. and players from Grafton, Medford, and Attleboro. SAGRA (the South Attleboro Girls Recreation Association) has already booked over 120 hours with us. It’s been huge.”
Cooper and his father had been throwing around the idea of opening an indoor facility “for quite some time, the past three years,” but the wheels quickly got into motion last summer during a discussion Cooper and Hoard had while Cooper was coaching Hoard’s 13-year-old daughter, Tori, on Cooper’s East Coast Drama, Inc. U-14 girls’ softball travel team, one of the Drama’s five ballclubs.
“Steve said, ‘You know, I’d love to open my own place,’ ” recalled Cooper, “and it was kind of funny because me and my father had been throwing the idea around, so I said, “Steve, why don’t you go talk to my dad? I want you to tell him what you were talking about, but I want my father to give you the answer.
“They were talking, and then Steve came back up to me and said, ‘You got to be kidding me! You guys were talking about this for three years?’ So the three of us eventually sat down and had a discussion, and we said, ‘This is what we’re going to do. Let’s do it and run with it.’ ”
And run with it they did. The first order of business was finding a location for their facility, and they checked out warehouses in East Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Johnston, and Smithfield before settling on the old Dortek Manufacturing building.
“It was very dark, dingy, and gloomy, and there were three to four inches of dirt and dust on the floor,” said Cooper. “But we were talking over 20,000 square feet of room. It was huge. I knew this was the place.
“It took a good month of work. My father and I actually did all of the work in there ourselves, and we were going at it for 18-20 hours on some days. But we had no choice because the weather was getting cold and I needed a home for my East Coast Drama organization for the winter.”
Once the work was completed, DH Hitting was ready for business, and among its features are...
— A full-size regulation turf infield for softball or Little League baseball with 60-foot basepaths, as well as one three-quarter sized infield in an adjacent room reserved for the East Coast Drama’s teams.
— Thirteen lanes for pitching and hitting.
— Four Major League regulation-sized pitching mounds.
— Ten hitting wheels and pitching machines.
— The option of using dimple or real baseballs and softballs.
— A recreation room for the Drama players and parents, complete with two small flat-screen TVs in the far corners of the room, couches, a refrigerator, and a microwave.
“We saved up our coaching money that we made over the past few years,” admitted Cooper. “We paid for everything inside here all out of our pockets. No loans, no nothing. It’s been all blood, sweat, and tears.”
While the three owners have put in a lot of money, they haven’t been asking for a lot in return in the prices they are offering for an annual membership or hourly rentals of the facility.
The annual membership fee is dirt cheap at $200 per person and $495 for a family membership of three or more children. Members have the green light to use the facility’s batting cages and pitching mound, as well as the machines and balls.
Non-members can also use the cages and mound for $15 per half hour or $25 per hour. The entire training room (includes up to five pitching and hitting lanes, the machines and balls, and use of the turf infield area) is available at $125 per hour.
“The way the economy is, and the way that baseball and softball teams around here are trying to survive, its very tough,” said Cooper. “We’re not trying to kill anybody with our prices. It’s $200 per kid for the year. And I’m offering a whole room for $125 an hour. Where can you get that?”
The low prices and the quality of the facility and its equipment have kept the phones at DH Hitting ringing off the hook for reservations, and because of that, Cooper has some advice for those who wish to reserve some time at the facility.
“Call us right away,” he said. “It’s first come, first serve. People need to call us right away. It’s been crazy here, and so far, the weekends have been packed. If you drive by Vineyard Street, you’ll see about 50 cars on that street, from 8 a.m. to 10 at night.”
While the facility primarily caters to young softball and baseball players, Cooper also hopes to draw more adult slowpitch softball players, especially those that play in weekend tournaments at the nearby Hank Soar Complex.
“We’re just 200 yards away from Hank Soar,” he added. “It’s a very short walk. I know there’s a tournament there almost every weekend, and we can cater to the teams that play there and want to take some swings off our machines while they’re looking to kill time in between games.”
But make no mistake about it, it’s the kids that matter the most at DH Hitting, and the No. 1 reason why the Coopers and Hoard wanted to create their spacious facility.
“We want to see the kids around these parts of the woods get what they deserve,” said Cooper. “We have some great athletes around here, and we want to offer them a place where they can get the proper training that they need to succeed in their careers.
“I want to read the paper and see a girl or a boy that’s been practicing in my facility -- busting their tails for the past three or four months -- doing something good for their high school teams,” he added. “Even though they play for other teams and just work out at my facility, I want to say, ‘That’s one of my kids.’ That would be awesome.”