Goss: Fuel for thought: Impressive new training facility in Shorewood
By Dick Goss email@example.com November 3, 2013 6:58PM
Fuel Sports general manager Kelly Ash stands by the tire that serves as Fuel’s company sign at the new Shorewood facility. | Dick Goss/Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 5, 2013 6:22AM
Outperform. Outlast. Overpower.
That mantra appears on the Fuel Sports Performance business card.
About two months ago, Fuel opened its mecca, a 36,000-square-foot training facility at 400 Earl Road in Shorewood, next to Rudy’s Gym. Fuel owner John Bylina also has a 12,000-square-foot facility in Romeoville, at the intersection of Weber and Airport roads, and an 8,000-square-foot building in Crest Hill, on Caton Farm Road off Weber.
I recently visited the Shorewood facility and met with Kelly Ash, general manager of the three facilities, and Jim O’Brien, president of Victory Baseball, which operates 16 baseball and softball teams for ages 9 through 18 that use Fuel extensively.
My previous visit to Fuel was almost two years ago, when I met 12-year major league catcher Sal Fasano at the Crest Hill location. Fasano discussed his 300 club.
“It’s not about hitting .300, it’s 300 contacts, like a boxer hitting a heavy bag,” he said then. “The stronger you get, the more propensity you have to knock someone out.”
Fasano at the time was managing the Toronto Blue Jays’ Double-A team at New Hampshire. Now he is roving catching instructor for the Jays.
He still lives in Minooka and remains on staff at Fuel in the offseason, with plenty of space and equipment to continue his 300 club.
The trainers’ roster also includes local professional pitchers Ryan Quigley (Padres organization) and Tony Bucciferro (White Sox), catcher Ben Hewett (Slammers), former pro pitcher Brian Stroud (Tigers), Lockport baseball coach Andy Satunas, speed trainer Tim Graf, core and speed and agility trainer Hassan Stevenson and former Blue Jays scout Mike Medici.
Last weekend, Bylina announced that Nancy Evans, legendary softball pitcher at Arizona and professionally, pitching coach for three Arizona national championship teams and more recently an assistant at DePaul, has joined the staff.
Ash, who coaches the 16U Mizuno Hawks travel team of Plainfield and has been coaching for 15 years, said Medici’s role is “to do evaluations on athletes, break down their games, do film analysis. He will help families pursue college careers for their kids in baseball and softball.”
In addition to Lewis women’s basketball players, Ash said Stevenson trains St. Francis football players, hopefully preparing them for the NFL Combine. Graf for years trained college seniors for the combine in the hallways at Joliet Junior College.
“He was drooling when he saw this place,” O’Brien said with a smile.
“We have this 75-yard area for core and speed and agility training,” Ash said. “And we have 127 feet from the (baseball/softball) netting to the wall. Joliet Ravens football trains there, and we have futsal starting soon. That’s soccer with a different ball, more for fundamentals. We have four fields for that.
“We’re trying to do all the core training here and then send kids over to Rudy (Francis Ruettiger) for strength training. He has been a great neighbor.”
With all that space, the facility contains five 70-foot tunnels for pitching and hitting, plus eight 50-foot tunnels with drop-down netting, five pitching mounds and several Iron Mike pitching machines.
“I love what this place does for us (Victory) as a program,” O’Brien said.
Adjacent to the training area, there’s a 2,500-square-foot lounge, equipped with games and five 50-inch televisions. It’s ideal for the family while their ballplayer is busy, and for meetings.
Fuel management has scheduled an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in Shorewood, featuring food, giveways and a chance to meet the staff, Fasano and Evans included.
“We’re here for teams and individuals,” Ash said. “Our rates are reasonable, in line with our competitors. And we’re going after team sales — uniforms, spirit wear and equipment — so we can be a one-stop shop.”
If you can’t make the open house, stop another time. For more information, call (815) 630-5990.