By Zach Chouteau
Our ‘Rich Life’ segment loves discovering local venues and organizations that aim to make a difference, and that certainly sums up Richmond’s Wheelhouse Baseball Academy on Jacuzzi Street.
We recently dropped by for a chat with two of the Academy’s main ‘players’ and had our eyes opened to a group dedicated to returning Richmond hardball to its glory days—via baseball camps and clinics, one-on-one instruction and even an annual youth baseball excursion to Cuba now entering its third year.
“We’re really focused on teaching kids from lower-income communities,” says Executive Director Shiva Gaskins. “Baseball is getting to be an expensive youth sport, and becoming more of an upper-middle-class pastime. Kids in wealthier communities are just getting better training.”
To that end, the Wheelhouse Baseball Academy is home to a handful of top-tier batting cages, plus knowledgeable instruction from several former college and professional players on staff, including the Havana-Born Michel Rodriguez—who played major league baseball in Cuba for seven seasons. Group and individual clinics also include pitching and fielding, all of it at significantly reduced rates relative to other offerings around the Bay, according to Shiva.
“It’s a matter of support,” says Program Director and Coach, Thomas Gary, a former prep legend at El Cerrito High who also starred at Contra Costa College. “There isn’t as much as there could be in the East Bay, with a lot of single-parent families. A lot of these kids have the desire and ability but not the coaching.”
Wheelhouse even manages their own nonprofit College Development known as GameChangers, with organized teams competing all over the Bay Area, and also supervises that aforementioned trip to Cuba that on April 2nd will send 16 Bay Area kids—including some Richmonders—on an eight-day, five-game journey they will never forget.
Wheelhouse’s batting cages are open to the public as well, and its homey venue also offers ‘party packages’ for hosting anything from birthday celebrations to company outings.
To find out more about Wheelhouse Baseball Academy visit their website at www.wheelhouseacademy.com. The venue is located at 5327 Jacuzzi Street in Richmond.