By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — With nearly 10,000 square feet of batting cages, pitching areas and an arsenal of weight-training equipment, the $400,000 addition to the Amateur Softball Association of Pennsylvania Hall of Fame thrills Sunbury Mayor David Persing and his wife, Kathaleen.
But what makes them even happier is the addition of training equipment for a similar sport — baseball.
“We want it to be known there is now baseball training available, and we are now not just a place to practice, but we are a full training facility,” said David Persing, who serves as executive director of the Hall of Fame. “We have expanded, and we are proud to be offering baseball as part of this training facility.”
It was nearly seven years ago that the Hall of Fame, 311 Race St., opened its doors, and this past weekend, more than 200 people visited to officially open the facility’s new section.
The $450,000 addition brings the complex to a total of about $1 million worth of construction and heavy-hitting equipment, Persing said.
The addition offers new batting cages, pitching areas and strength-training machines.
“This is awesome,” he said of the only American Softball Association Hall of Fame in the country with a training facility, Hall of Fame and office space under one roof. “We are very proud of this.”
The metal building also has sky lighting so that less electricty is needed during daylight hours. The floor is cement with a double layer of non-slip paint and is lined with six batting nets. A media room and concession area also have been added to the facility.
The Hall of Fame was once the site of the former Sunbury bus station until the ASA purchased the land and building in 1991, Persing said. The complex was constructed to fit some offices and the Hall of Fame, and in 1996, Persing said a new day dawned in Sunbury.
Saturday marked the start of yet another new era as Persing announced the center would be working with various baseball leagues, school districts and colleges to promote baseball training.
“We wanted to let people know that with this addition, there will be coaches and trainers in here all the time helping with hitting and pitching,” Persing said. “Baseball is a huge part of this expansion.”
Thanks to the ASA, the Degenstein Foundation and several volunteers, administrative director Kathaleen Persing said the 50- by 160-foot addition was made possible.
“Everyone has been helpful, and we appreciate the support we get,” she said. “People in this community have just been so great and helpful.”
She said now that the addition is built, Lewisburg and Shamokin high schools have been in contact about using the facility for baseball training.
Shikellamy High School and Susquehanna University will be using it for softball.
“We are trying to get as many schools and organizations involved as possible,” Kathaleen Persing said. “It is so nice to have coaches and trainers here. When other members come in, they know there are real coaches here to help.”
One of those coaches on any given day could be Crystl “The Big Bruiser” Bustos. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in softball.
“We are looking for fun ways to generate more people,” Kathaleen Persing said. “We have several different clinics planned. We are looking to start different leagues.”
One of those clinics will be held Feb. 16, when former Major League baseball pitchers Lee Smith, of the Chicago Cubs, and Steve Kline, of the St. Louis Cardinals, visit the center as guest instructors.
Former Colorado Rockies catcher Kirt Manwaring and Sunbury’s own Bobby Felmey, who is Shikellamy High School’s head baseball coach and former outfielder for the San Francisco Giants organization, also will appear.
For information on the facility or the Hall of Fame, call 286-7670.
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