Newly opened Brewster Baseball Garage aspires to be a home run for local ball players
As a kid growing up in Carmel, Gerard Galella spent thousands of hours practicing baseball in his garage. Baseball was a passion he shared with his father, and something that he pursued all the way through college. This month Galella, along with two friends, opened the Brewster Baseball Garage. He hopes the place will be a haven not only for his own baseball-loving son, but also for kids and adults from across the region.
Galella conceived of the idea to open a baseball training facility last summer. Driving his son throughout the region for competitive youth baseball, he noticed how many private teams maintained their own facilities, accessible only to their own members. Galella saw an opportunity to create a place closer to home, and one that was more inclusive.
Galella’s first step on the path to building a field of dreams was to get his wife Amanda on board. “Even before I presented the idea to her, I had built out a business plan in my head,” he said. He called on his years of experience working in corporate America, understanding and planning for the inevitable hiccups that come along with moving a project from A to Z.
With marital buy-in secured, Galella sought out business partners. He called Neil Ross, his son’s former baseball coach. “When Gerard called, I jumped right on board,” said Ross, recalling how the two clicked when they first met four years ago through their shared perspectives on baseball, coaching and life in general. They brought in friend Chris Ratti as a minority investor.
That the trio were able to launch a business during a pandemic is impressive. Last year, nearly thirty percent of small businesses in New York State had to shutter due to economic fallout caused by the pandemic, according to TrackTheRecovery.org. Through Galella’s mother, who is a real estate broker, they found the facility on North Main Street in Brewster. They signed a two-year lease with an option to extend for three years. Galella hopes that if the Garage is a success, they can open up similar facilities in other towns. For now, he’s staying focused on making the Brewster Garage a success.
“I’m trying to start small, and get the small things right, then expand,” he said. First up is a winter break camp for kids age 9-14. Sign-ups are limited to 12 participants to allow for adequate social distancing requirements. The Garage will also host a 6-week t-ball clinic beginning in February for kids age 4-7. Hitting clinics and drop-in tunnel times are available throughout the week.
For Ross, whose passion for baseball would inspire even the most sports-averse individual, the opportunity to coach and mentor kids is what it’s all about. “It’s super rewarding to watch these kids develop, learn how to be teammates, and how to be a positive role model on and off the field,” he said.
Monica Chaves, a Brewster mom whose 13-year-old daughter Sophia Schnatz is a competitive softball player, is thrilled to have the Garage in town. Schnatz works with a private pitching coach and before the Garage opened Chaves would have to drive her to facilities thirty to forty minutes away for training sessions once or twice a week. The commuting was wearing on both Chaves, who works full time and Schnatz, who increasingly felt tired and burnt out.
“I think the Brewster Baseball Garage got us reignited,” she said. “Being able to go there and do a quick 30-minute session changes the whole dynamic. It doesn’t feel like work. It just feels like a nice enjoyable break from the day.”
As the facility gains traction, Ross, who played for Pace University before going on to play professionally, will call on a roster of coaches who are great with kids, have played professionally and are eager to help mold a team. Galella, who played for Columbia University, is committed to only using coaches who have played at the D-I level or higher. Both men feel it’s critical for kids who come to the facility to get an understanding of how hard they have to work and what they have to do now if they want to make it to the next level of competitive play.
Looking ahead, the team behind the Brewster Baseball Garage envisions a bustling facility where youth and adult teams alike come to train with premier coaches, and where anyone who just want a place to go to burn off energy and get in some batting practice feels welcome. The facility will also host early morning fitness classes, as well as be available to rent out for private parties.
Galella acknowledges that most kids who come through the facility will not play sports for the rest of their lives, However, he said “a lot of what you learn in here can apply to any kind of field. That’s my vision for this place, and for a coach. Helping kids to be good, all-around people.”