Venue hits the big time

The distinctive ping of aluminum bats rocketing baseballs and the hum of pitching machines delivering a steady stream of offerings fills the air.

The sound of young athletes laughing and spurring each other on mixes with the voices of instructors giving pointers on fundamentals to attentive players.

The atmosphere can be loud at times at the Burbank facility that houses On Deck Baseball Training and West Coast Baseball School, but Daris Toussaint and Glen Raasch wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We wanted this to be a place where players can come and learn baseball, and get better at what they do,” Toussaint said. “But we also wanted it to be a place where they can have fun.”

It looks as if Toussaint and Raasch have been able to accomplish both goals.

The two are the driving force behind the impressive facility on San Fernando Road. The men have converted a massive warehouse into a state-of-the-art, one-stop baseball and softball training venue that provides a place for athletes to hone their skills, get conditioning and receive personalized instruction.

It’s not uncommon to see Major League and college baseball players practicing their swings in the batting cages amid a group young athletes taking part in one of the many camps offered at the facility.

The On Deck Baseball Training portion of the facility dominates the bottom floor of the expansive 13,000 square-foot building, complete with a 30-foot ceiling. Rows of batting cages and pitching machines line the floor, as real baseballs are used instead of the standard plastic or rubber balls found in many batting cages. The pitching machines can also be adjusted to throw curveball, sliders and sinkers.

In an adjoining room sits a variety of workout equipment with a distinctive look. The machines are part of a fast-twitch muscle system, the latest, most advanced training regimen that is used my many professional sports teams. The system helps athletes increase their speed, quickness, explosiveness and power through resistance on a series of isometric machines.

“It’s all computer operated, and the best way to describe the system is it helps the muscles accelerate,” Toussaint said. “The athletes get instant feedback on the computer during their workout.”

The West Coast Baseball training facility occupies the top floor of the venue. Along with individual and group training and instruction, the school offers camps for players and coaches. It also provides career counseling for athletes.

“We wanted to make it a one-stop place for athletes to come by providing the full package,” Raasch said. “The fast-twitch was Daris’ big idea, and that has made a big difference for the athletes since we’ve had it here the past eight months.”

Athletes who attend On Deck and West Coast appear to be in good hands with Toussaint and Raasch.

Raasch is a former player in the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners organizations and has been with West Coast since 1992. Toussaint played in the San Francisco Giants organization and has also served as a scout for the Giants, Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds. He has been with West Coast since 1994.

Burroughs High baseball Coach Tom Crowther is also an instructor at the facility.

Helping young players develop and hone their skills for almost 15 years has been a rewarding experience for Toussaint and Raasch. In turn, athletes have been able to find success in the sport after training with the pair.

“We have had some pretty good success with the players that we have trained,” Raasch said. “In this last Major League draft, we had four kids drafted this year. One other guy is going to play in college at Loyola Marymount and another guy is going to be playing at Eastern New Mexico.

“The kid at Eastern New Mexico has been training with us since he was 11 years old, and now he’s 18, and the kid at Loyola Marymount has been with us since he was 6 or 7.

“It’s really great for us to see players like these be able to learn from us and go on to be successful. It’s great to see.”

As athletics — especially those at the youth and high school level — have become more competitive, Toussaint said young boys and girls are now looking for ways to gain a competitive edge. He believes his facility provides players with that advantage.

“Training is a year-round thing now,” he said. “The great thing about this gym is that what we do is not limited just to baseball players. We have had football players and basketball players come through the gym.

“Everyone is getting stronger, quicker, faster and now athletes have to continue to work out and stay in shape just to maintain a competitive edge. Especially with baseball, you have to play year-round if you want to play at an elite level.”

There is no shortage of athletes who acknowledge that they have improved their skills and have become better players after training at the facility.

One of those athletes is 22-year-old Burbank resident Chris Duran. Duran, who has been training at West Coast for 14 years, is playing at the University of Dubuque in Iowa.

“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be playing college ball,” he said. “I got help from them in high school. I actually quit my senior year and they are the ones who talked me into playing again so I could play in college. They really help players out.”

Said resident Daniel Bowman: “For a baseball player, being able to train at a facility like this is incredible. Everything is right here, and you really don’t have to go anywhere else to work out or get practice in.”

Many of the players from Burbank are also grateful to have a world-class baseball venue in their backyard.

“I know some people who drive more than an hour to come to this place,” said David Goldberg, a pitcher at Burbank High. “I feel fortunate to have something like this that is just five minutes from my house.

“It is just a great place to come to. I have improved so much since coming here two months ago. I have added speed to my throwing, by bat speed has improved and I’m quicker on the field. I’m playing a lot better.” ONE-STOP FACILITY   WHAT : On Deck Baseball Training and West Coast Baseball School.   WHERE : 7675 San Fernando Road, Burbank.   OWNERS/OPERATORS : Daris Toussaint and Glen Raasch.   ONE-STOP TRAINING : The facility offers complete training and instruction in baseball and softball, along with conditioning and fast-twitch muscle workouts for all athletes.   C ONTACTS : On Deck (818) 771-9150; West Coast (818) 842-1412.

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