LANSING, Mich. — Baseball hall of famer and Lansing native John Smoltz is back in town this week promoting what he says is the first business he's put his name behind, The John Smoltz Strikeout Baseball Stadium.
"I still feel like this is a part of my life where home and sports started for me," , Smoltz said, sitting on a bench at Ferris Park in just a few blocks from the state Capitol.
Which is why Smoltz agreed to work with Strikeout Baseball founder Jeff Lazaros on this stadium.
The stadium is crowd funded, and Lazaros says they're nearing their goal. Once they do The John Smoltz Strikeout Baseball Stadium will be open to the public.
How will it work?
"Strikeout Baseball is a conceptual baseball facility that allows players to pitch, hit and field in a miniature stadium environment," Lazaros said.
Playing the game doesn't require 18 players or 4 hours.
"Strikeout Baseball can be played one-on-one, two-on-two. It's ideally set up for five-on-five," Lazaros said. "You have a full infield with a pitcher. You pitch a rubber ball, this is not intended to be used with a hard ball. You come in and you pitch to a wall, there's no catcher, the ball bounces back, and where the ball goes in the field is an out, a double, or a triple. There's some modified rules, but you're pitching and hitting and fielding, which are the key elements of baseball."
It's the concept of getting kids outside, active and playing baseball in a fun, relaxed matter that excited Smoltz.
"I just can't imagine what it's like to be a parent today. To have the pressure they have to get their young child in a system that is so over the top, that guarantees they have access to being a big leaguer when the reality is less than 1 percent have that opportunity," Smoltz said. "Strikeout Baseball will literally strike a chord to the parents who don't have access to doing things that we just talked about. Competing in a high level league, maybe even affording the baseball aspect because baseball is expensive. This is going to give kids an opportunity to play baseball, like they would pick up basketball."
It's modified baseball that requires fewer people, less time, and less money.
The project is still accepting donations.
"We believe that we may be able to do a middle of May groundbreaking, then a potential six-week build," Lazaros said. "I hope to be seeing the facility operational before the end of the summer."
Once up and running the duo says they have plans for Strikeout Baseball leagues, challenges and neighborhood competitions at the stadium.
After 22 years in the major leagues, Smoltz said, once the stadium is up and running, Lansing can expect to see more of him once again.
"I will joyfully throw a bunch of pitches at the grand opening," he said. "And I will probably won't be able to use a fork the next day, but that's okay. That'll be worth it."
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