Business & economy, In the community

Ontario baseball operation gets grant to expand

ONTARIO – A newly-opened baseball and softball clinic is expanding to provide more pitching, hitting and catching instruction after winning a $25,000 grant.

The Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board, known as the Border Board, awarded the grant to Green Light Baseball Performance of Ontario.

Aaron Sutton, owner of the baseball clinic and a former minor league coach for the Minnesota Twins baseball organization, said the facility at 661 S.W. 4th Ave. includes batting cages, a pitcher’ss mound and a team skills area to work on fielding and other fundamentals of the game.

Greenlight Baseball, which opened in May, rents the facility and for an additional fee provides personal lessons from Sutton and his two coaches, Jarica Martinez, a former Treasure Valley Community College softball standout, and two-time All-American catcher during her career, or Tim Bourner, a former TVCC pitching coach.

Sutton, who, along with his wife, Kristin, owns Burger West, a local go-to burger place in Ontario, is currently a coach for the  Boise Hawks, a Pioneer League team affiliated with Major League Baseball. 

Sutton said he and his coaches at Greenlight Baseball are staying busy,  and is seeing about 15 clients a week.

Sutton said he did not foresee the business taking off as quickly as it did, given that most teams are playing at this time of the year. 

“The outreach has been pretty humbling,” Sutton said.

In applying for the Border Board grant, Sutton wrote that many in the area do not have access to compete at the level necessary to earn scholarships and play at the collegiate level without such a facility.

According to Sutton, the closest such facility is in Caldwell in Idaho.

Sutton said the idea for Greenlight came when he was running a baseball camp in eastern Idaho. He said he noticed kids from Vale, Ontario, and Fruitland were having to drive all that way to get the same level of instruction others nearby were getting.

When the 1,600-square-foot building became available, Sutton said, he thought, “we could do this here, and kids won’t have to travel so far.”

The money from the grant, Sutton said, will allow Greenlight to buy a hitting simulator, a tracking system that will tell players how far they are hitting the ball and how fast they are throwing it.

“We’ll be able to add some technology to the game of baseball softball, which, obviously in 2023, you see on TV and that will get kids more excited to play,” Sutton said.

Additionally, Sutton said, the funding will allow the facility to get a couple more pitching machines.

In Sutton’s application, he wrote that the region needs sports facilities and programs designed to keep kids active and provide positive role models to impact their development.

Sutton said while Greenlight is about baseball and softball, the mission statement is about positively impacting kids.

“We know not everyone’s going to play professional baseball and softball,” he said. “But I feel like we can provide structure, mentoring and leadership for these kids that will impact their daily lives.”

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