By Brian Kalish
March 13, 2018
Plover– It’s February 20, 2018. A recent storm has left the heart of central Wisconsin encased in a layer of ice. Literally. The frozen limbs of trees glisten in the sunlight and the parking lot I pull into at 1430 Contractors Boulevard in Plover is an inches-thick sheet of ice. I imagine the same holds true for the Woyak Sports Complex, just a few miles south where, in a matter of months, the fields will be abuzz with youth and high school sports.
Right now, you’d imagine everyone interested in local sports is preoccupied with the high school winter playoffs, not thinking about softball.
But you’d be dead wrong.
The warehouse on Contractors Boulevard that was recently used to maintain diesel rigs now serves as BMP Playhouse, a facility for softball players both locally and from far and wide to tune up their skills prior to the start of the upcoming season.
Chris Brooks, manager/owner of Central Door Solutions and coach of the Plover Fastpitch 11U softball team, and pitching guru Bill Mansur teamed up to create the facility, which opened for operation on November 1, 2017.
The facility offers a multi-pronged approach for training budding softball players.
Mansur, owner of Bill Mansur Pitching, LLC and who served as SPASH softball pitching coach for nine years, offers personalized instruction for pitchers both locally and from as far away as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
In addition to pitching-specific instruction, the facility is also available for use by coaches and players in Plover Fastpitch as well as individuals and families. It is large enough to accommodate team practices as well as individuals who want to take batting practice, field ground balls or work on strength and cross-training.
Between local youth teams, high school players looking to gain an edge and pitching instruction from Mansur, the facility sees little down time.
“I run 24-7,” Mansur said. “If someone wants me at four in the morning to come in and pitch, I’ll come in and pitch. I only live one minute from here. Right now is my busy season. I’m in here every day of the week, five lessons on Saturdays and two on Sunday mornings.”
Currently, Mansur is working with high school pitchers from around the region as they tune up for the upcoming season.
“I’ve got kids from SPASH, Pacelli, Amherst, I’ve got Iola’s starting pitcher, I’m working with the Waupaca one, I’ve got all three of Mosinee’s pitchers,” said Mansur.
Meanwhile, the 4,800 square foot facility serves as the indoor training headquarters for Plover Fastpitch, which suits up nine traveling teams each summer with ages ranging from seven to 18.
One travel program from Amherst also uses the facility.
“All those teams have two practice times per week,” Brooks said. “One time they get the entire place to themselves to do infield and a little fly ball, and then the other time they get just the batting cage. Then we also sell memberships. So those people can come in any time. There’s always a batting cage they jump into. Currently there’s 10 team memberships and 22 families that are members.”
It’s not hyperbole to say that the Stevens Point/Plover area is obsessed with softball. The success of the local high school teams is well documented. And the vast majority of players who find time on the softball field at the varsity level at SPASH or Pacelli have worked their way up through the area’s youth leagues. The competitive nature of traveling youth leagues demands year-round work by athletes and coaches alike.
“There’s a lot of diversity in what we can do here,” Brooks said. “You can bring your team in and if you’ve got enough coaches, you might see five different stations going on at one time. Last night we had girls hitting on the tees, we had girls in the cages, I had girls doing lunges for strength training in their legs, and Bill’s got two pitchers over there taking lessons, so we were using about every square inch of the facility that we possibly could.”
As players walk in, they are immediately greeted by trophy cases with hardware accumulated by former Plover Fastpitch teams. Additionally, banners highlighting state and national championships adorn the walls.
The facility will help to build on a foundation that includes:
- 2013 14U ASA Northern National Champs
- 2015 12U ASA Northern National Runner Up
- 2016 12U ASA Northern National Champs
- 2017 12U ASA Northern National Champs
- 2017 14U Northern National Champs
- 2017 10U Northern Nationals Final Four
“When we put this together, obviously there were two things we were looking at: Bill’s business and the facility for Plover Fastpitch. And with the banners, the state championships and the national championship– when they walk in here, there’s a trophy case with national championships. You’re trying to instill in their minds that this is what they want to aspire to.”
Finally, the facility provides a safe environment for girls to hone their skills.
“There’s camera surveillance, and the doors are locked with the exception of the PIN code,” Brooks said. “These girls can come in here. It’s safe. It’s girls softball only. We don’t have baseball pitchers in here. We don’t have teenage boys in here. Girls sports tend to take a backseat sometimes. Not as much as it used to. But when we had an opportunity here to put up a facility together that was just for girls fastpitch, the amount of compliments we’ve gotten from players and families, they love this place.”