Illinois Baseball Academy debuts new space in Northbrook
For years, the Illinois Baseball Academy held training sessions in a church gym, or a park district space, or a community center.
Now, young baseball and softball players can really let it rip at the academy's new 32,000-square-foot space in Northbrook.
Last November, the brain trust of president and owner Trey Frahler and founder Chris Beacom -- former New Trier players who went on to quality college careers and then coaching and development -- plus co-owner Tom Burr moved the business into half of a 65,000-square-foot building at 722 Landwehr Road, north of Dundee Road and just north of the Solomon Schechter Day School.
A ribbon-cutting for the new facility was held March 17.
Called The Yard, it offers baseball/softball activities over about 24,000 square feet, an expanse of open turf, four batting cages that can be divided into eight smaller cages, players' meeting rooms and a full kitchen for baseball-themed birthday parties and team gatherings.
It's a big step up from a church gym.
"We open up the door and they walk in and they go, 'Wow.' It's a great space, it really is," Burr said.
Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Burr is the business specialist of the group who played on Michigan State's baseball team as a freshman.
Frahler and Beacom are the baseball guys -- Beacom was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Northwestern; Frahler was a record-setting pitcher at Bucknell.
Ownership had been looking for a new spot when in November 2021 they learned the academy's lease at its former 4,500-square-foot space in Northfield was not going to be renewed. They found this location in April 2022 and signed a 10-year lease, Burr said.
"We looked at a lot of buildings. It's difficult to find a space that will accommodate indoor baseball," he said. "We think it's a long-term solution for us."
The academy's space in the Landwehr Road building that The Yard occupies had been vacant for a year, according to village records.
After a unanimous village plan commission recommendation, the village board approved the plan on consent Sept. 13 by a 6-0 vote.
Ownership continues to work with the village to get permits for a pair of "pitching tunnels," where pitchers can throw live to catchers, Burr said.
The academy serves thousands of children annually from ages 3-18, with a sweet spot for travel team players ages 9-14. High school, college and professional-level players also work out there.
It hosts clinics, private and group lessons under the direction of former New Trier catcher Bobby Garrick. He helms a staff of former college players including local graduates Andrew Earvolino, John Rosinski and Liam McKeough.
Sometimes travel teams will come in and practice, but Burr emphasized the academy does not have its own travel team.
"We support community baseball," he said.