HOUSTON — Astros right fielder Hunter Pence and former minor leaguers Howie Pence (Hunter’s older brother) and Sean Danielson (Hunter’s childhood friend) announced during an exclusive interview following the conclusion of the Hunter Pence All-Star Baseball Camp at Baseball USA of their intention to open a baseball academy on Jan. 1 in Cypress, Texas, located at 20220 Hempstead Road, Suite 14.
The trio began discussing the idea of a partnership last year while collaborating on the Hunter Pence All-Star Camp 2009 in The Woodlands, Texas.
After months of discussion, the wheels went into motion upon Danielson’s return home to the Houston area in September following his 2010 campaign at Double-A Carolina in the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system.
Danielson, who has decided to retire, made it a priority to get the business idea off the ground by researching potential locations and doing a tremendous amount of legwork, along with the Pence brothers, for the purpose of opening a baseball school that will serve the community in a positive manner, teach the game properly and provide long-term opportunities for youngsters.
Although the name isn’t official, the trio wants to call it “Hunter Pence Baseball Academy,” if it clears through liability issues, with “Houston Horns” as a backup possibility.
With Hunter Pence being a major sports icon in the greater Houston area, it’s critical to Howie Pence and Danielson to put his name on the business.
“We’re still working on the name,” Howie Pence said. “Hopefully, we’ll have it all squared away soon. We’re thinking Hunter Pence Baseball Academy if it clears through liability issues and the agency. That’s what we’ll go with. If it doesn’t, then it will be Houston Horns Baseball Academy or the Proud Hitting Facility of Hunter Pence [jokingly].
“We need to put him on there because his name is golden in the Houston area. He gives us credibility. We have credibility anyway, but having him tied to it makes it great. Kids are going to get to go there, watch him hit and see the work he puts in. Hopefully, his leadership by example rubs off on them.
“He’s a good-character guy and I’m proud that he’s my brother.”
According to Danielson, they did extensive research to find the right location, and in the end, the Cypress, Texas, area proved to be ideal due to the number of high schools within a 10-mile radius of Highway 290 and Texas State Highway 6.
“We looked everywhere,” Danielson said. “We found out that Cypress is a baseball hotbed and there are about 10 high schools within a 10-mile square radius of the building we picked. We had a couple of other places we were thinking about, but when we went back and looked at the Hunter Pence Baseball Academy on 290 and Highway 6, we just decided that’s where we want to start.
“It’s not too far from Hunter’s house and convenient for him to come every day during the offseason. It’s not too far from me, either. Howie is a little further because he’s in Pearland, but that could end up changing.”
What kind of training programs will the academy offer?
At first, the Pence brothers and Danielson intend to run programs on a weekly basis where youngsters can sign up to come to the academy three times per week for an hour or two and go through hitting and pitching stations while receiving private lessons.
A strength and conditioning program will eventually be offered upon the completion of the weight room, and over the long-run, teams will likely be introduced in the fall of 2011.
“We can go six-years-old and up with our programs,” Danielson said. “We’re not ready for teams yet, but we’ll be looking to do that in the fall. Our goal is to get the kids in three times per week working on baseball and repetition so they can get better. With the strength and conditioning program and putting the weight room in there, it’s going to be a place where you can get everything done at one spot.
“We’re also going to do personal instructions and private lessons. We should have a few guys there to help us out with that.”
Howie Pence and Danielson take pride in their carpentry skills and the fact that they worked together to construct, build and design the entire inside of the baseball academy.
“Sean wanted to take pictures so that we could prove to people that we can build,” Howie Pence said. “We don’t think anyone is going to believe we were climbing up on ladders and pushing drills through pipes. We built the whole thing, everything. We didn’t buy anything except for the base pieces.”
What kind of equipment will be utilized by the Pence brothers and Danielson?
There will be four state of the art batting cages, two Iron Mike pitching machines, two bullpens, a soon-to-be weight room and an area designated for ping pong to build hand-eye coordination.
With the target Jan. 1 opening date rapidly approaching, Howie Pence and Danielson will run the day-to-day operations, with Hunter Pence coming in as much as possible during the offseason.
“Mainly, it’s going to be Sean and I manning the ship and Hunter coming when he’s not playing,” Howie Pence said. “In the front end, we’re going to try to keep overhead low because we don’t want it to get out of control. We’ll start small and go from there. It’s about the kids. We’re not trying to become millionaires from running this baseball facility.
“We want to help kids play baseball, make the sport better and to give people opportunities we didn’t have as kids. We want to tell them stuff I wish I would have known so I wouldn’t have gotten hurt in my career. To me, if I can help kids further their careers or motivate them to play, that’s what I want.”
The opening of a baseball academy represents a dream come true, especially for Hunter Pence, who credits mentor Chris Gay (owner of Cover All Bases in Arlington, Texas) as his inspiration for wanting to provide a facility for youngsters in the greater Houston area.
“I think it gives us an opportunity to get involved in the sport we love,” Hunter Pence said. “It’s about kids and trying to help them with all the knowledge we have. Hopefully, we can help these kids get to college if they want to play the game. We know how the game is played and have a lot of insight into that.
“Also, we have connections with collegiate athletes and hopefully we give the kids some information that can help them get there if they want to. If the kids want to play, that’s what we can be there for.”
The trio intends to run a business model similar to Gay’s and will be sure to call their longtime friend if they have any questions regarding the ins and outs of running a successful program.
“I told Hunter that anytime they have an idea, call me because I’ve probably done it wrong at some point,” Gay said. “It’s not the easiest business. I’m always here for them if they have questions. I’m sure I’ve done it, tried it, didn’t work, did work through 13 years, and I can maybe say don’t do that or do that.”
Overall, the goal is simple — to help kids achieve their dreams.
“I’m staying in the game through doing this,” Danielson said. “My goal is to get kids to where they want to be. The ones who are serious about baseball, I can help them. We have connections to scouts and colleges. We’ve got connections with agents.
“Our connections will put them in the right situation and make an opportunity.”
Those interested in obtaining more information about Hunter Pence and the baseball academy are encouraged to visit www.hunterpencebaseball.com, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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