Batter(s) Up!

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

In winters past – say, last year – young baseball players had to wait for the spring thaw to break out their balls and bats. No longer.
This year, batting practice began well before New Year’s here in Moorhead, thanks to The Sandlot. The indoor training facility for Moorhead Youth Baseball first opened its doors in December, thanks to four years of planning, fund-raising and three months of hands-on work by dads and moms who love kids’ sports.
The Sandlot quietly opened its doors for individual skill-building in mid-December. Since then, it’s been buzzing after school and in the evening, with players who have reserved time online swinging and throwing the ball when the calendar would otherwise have grounded them. A grand opening is being planned for April.
The new facility at 3380 43rd St. S., on the south edge of Moorhead’s MCCARA Industrial Park, occupies a 70-by-70-foot space designed expressly to build the skills of young baseball players. The plan is to offer its use free to children and teens, ages 5 to 15, who register for local youth baseball teams. It will also be used by the Moorhead High School varsity baseball team, as well as Moorhead Crush girls fast-pitch softball. Private rentals will also be available.
“This will do wonders for development of the kids in Moorhead baseball,” says Skylar Strand, who joined the organization as its executive director at the beginning of the year. A Bismarck native and veteran of the Demons hockey and baseball teams, he will graduate this spring from the University of North Dakota. “There’s nothing else like this around here. It’s an awesome opportunity for kids to develop their skills.”
MYB president Devin Gaard says the group began looking for space four years ago, when Brent Teiken headed the group and Matt Saari was its director. When Saari learned that old friend Jeremy MacAdams was planning a building to house his 4 Seasons Lawn Service, he asked if he had extra space. MacAdams did. The board approved the move in 2022, and fund-raising began in earnest.
The organization ultimately raised about $60,000 to fund the project. Teiken and his wife Jodell became major donors. Board member Dean Meyer played a big part in raising additional funds to equip the facility. He installed the cables and netting, along with Kevin Harryman and Adam Tornell, and served as foreman for the project, coordinating volunteer shifts as The Sandlot began to come together.
Gaard cites others who played critical parts in putting the facility together, starting in September: MYB treasurer Jenni Huotari and Strand, who helped arrange for the space; board member Curt Zimmel, who did the design and layout; Charlie Holmes, painting; Pete Cullen, turf; Luke Brakke, signage; and Chad Marsden, who provided the forklift for hanging cables and nets.
The Sandlot features a 60-by-55-foot turf with four retractable batting cages that can be used separately or as two larger open areas. Teams can also use the entire space for throwing, working on defense and hitting. The facility includes pitching machines, pitching mounds, tees and a variety of training equipment.
Players who register for Moorhead Youth Baseball can book individual practice sessions online, as can members of the Spud and Crush teams. In addition to individual bookings, The Sandlot will host a majority of MYB camps, clinics, lessons and other training sessions. Private and small group lessons are already being offered by Moorhead Blues coach Jack Naugle and MYB coach Wyatt Gunkel.
Online registration is underway until March 1 for the 2024 summer season. Last year, 550 youth between the ages of 5 and 15 took part in the 50-plus teams the association fielded. Tryouts for traveling teams will begin soon, according to Strand.
Players from the Moorhead Blues and Spuds varsity teams are conducting skill-building workshops for all ages at The Sandlot starting Feb. 25. Each age group will meet for four evening sessions.
More information on registration for the summer program as well as the workshops can be found at

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