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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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Strike Zone Sports Training opens at Great Eastern

Strike Zone Sports Training co-owner Garry Isbell said he has always dreamed of opening a sports training facility, and now that dream is coming to fruition.

Strike Zone, an 18,500-square-foot facility located in the Great Eastern Shopping Plaza (2660 Woodville Rd.), hosted a grand opening on Jan. 4.

“We’re excited,” Isbell said. “I’ve always wanted to do this and I never thought it would be possible, and it’s going to happen. It’s an exciting opportunity - hopefully one to remember for years to come - and an opportunity for the community of Northwood and surrounding communities.”

isbell
Co-owner Garry Isbell at the Strike Zone Sports Training Pro
Shop. (Press photo by J.Patrick Eaken)

Isbell is the co-owner of Strike Zone along with Karl Knierim and Rod Achter. Isbell and Knierim are former Clay baseball coaches, and Achter coached basketball, baseball and football at Clay. Isbell replaced Knierim, who guided the Eagles’ baseball program for 13 years, at Clay in 2010 but resigned after the 2013 season in order to pursue his dream of opening a sports instruction clinic.

“Rod and Karl have been my two (baseball) assistants, and I coached football with Rod for 10 years at Clay,” Isbell said. “He’s wanted to do this, too. He was going to manage the store when Karl and I couldn’t be there. After crunching numbers, we felt it would be more beneficial for him to come in (as an owner), so we did it.”

Strike Zone will feature more than 10,000 feet of artificial turf, installed by Maumee Bay Turf Center of Oregon. The facility houses six batting tunnels, three pitching lanes and an open area for infield and outfield defensive drills. It has a full weight room, a pro shop and full-scale artificially turfed locker rooms that resemble a baseball field.

The best feature, however, is the level of instruction that will be made available for local youth athletes. Isbell and Knierim will offer the main instruction for baseball, while Clay grad Molly Berry will give instruction for softball. Berry was an All-Ohio performer at Clay and an all-conference softball player at Wright State University. Isbell played baseball at the University of Toledo.

Former Clay and Michigan State standout pitcher A.J. Achter, who is in the Minnesota Twins farm system, and John Niese, a Defiance native who was the No. 2 starter for the New York Mets last season, will host a two-week pitching camp beginning Jan. 25 for ages 8-18.

Rod Achter, Isbell and former Clay football coach Mike Donnelly are Strike Zone’s football instructors. Rod Achter was a wide receiver at the University of Toledo and briefly played in the NFL with Minnesota and Cincinnati.

“We will have other instructors who will be here based on availability,” Isbell said. “All of the instructors have extreme professionalism, and there is over 70 years of combined teaching and coaching in the baseball world. Nothing on the East Side or Northwest Ohio has anything close to what we have to offer, and our prices are extremely competitive. All of our instructors are highly qualified. We don’t have anyone who has played at less than the Division I college level.”

For more information, visit www.szsportstraining.com. (— Press contributing writer Mark Griffin)


Express ranked fourth
The Owens Community College women's basketball team has inched up in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association D-II poll.

The Express, who are currently 14-1 and riding a 14-game winning streak, moved up to fourth in the newest poll.

The week before, the Express were ranked fifth. This marks the fourth consecutive poll that the Express have been ranked in the nation's top 10. It is their highest ranking since Dec. 8, 2010 when they were also ranked fourth in the nation. The program has been ranked in the top 10 since March 5, 2013.

The Express begins Ohio Community College Athletic Conference play Jan. 15 at home against Cuyahoga Community College at 5:30 p.m. (— Nick Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information)

Trick or Treat

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