Before Chris Matthews became a business owner, he was a softball fan. Not just any softball fan, but a softball fan that knew the frustrations of trying to get in batting practice before games when playing in recreation leagues. Whether it was rounding up teammates to shag balls or rules that prohibited practice on the fields, Matthews knew he needed to do something.
That’s why his company, Heavy Hitters LLC, which is in its third year of business, came forward with an “innovative approach to batting practice,” Matthews said.
“I was the customer that I built the business for,” Matthews told the Waukesha Parks, Recreation & Forestry Board on Monday. “I am hoping there are other people out there that have the same thought process as I do about this.”
Matthews pitched – pun intended – his proposal for a private-public partnership to allow him to operate his portable batting cages at the . At a maximum-use day when nearly 400 softball players filter through the park, Matthews could receive $330 while operating the batting cages. But a proposal before the parks board would allow the city to receive 15 percent of that money for the Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department.
“Basically, I believe Saratoga is a perfect storm for what I have planned here,” said Matthews, who resides in South Milwaukee. “I believe it is a win-win-win for everybody involved.”
Matthews, who works third shift at Waukesha Electric until he can turn Heavy Hitters into a full-time job, would like to leave his portable cage at Saratoga overnight but plans to load his pitching machine, bats and balls into his trailer to take home every night. He also has his own $1 million insurance policy for liability issues.
The proposed charges would be $2 per round of pitches with a person’s own bat or $3 per round of pitches with the bats Matthews has received from his partnership with Easton.
The Parks, Recreation & Forestry Board agreed Monday night that it wants to pursue the partnership with Matthews and Heavy Hitters. It is expected to vote on an agreement during the March 5 board meeting.
Alderman Paul Ybarra, who is on the board but was unable to attend Monday’s meeting, had made the referral two months ago for the board to consider the partnership. However, he said the partnership wasn’t his idea but he wanted to get the proposal moving forward as the Common Council was encouraged in the last budget process to find ways to improve customer service while reducing the tax burden on city residents.
Having the batting cages at Saratoga would be a huge win for everyone, Ybarra said in a phone interview. Ybarra, who plays softball at the complex, said he plans on using the cage at least twice a week.
“I think this thing is going to be absolutely packed every night of softball,” Ybarra said. “I think a lot of times, men and women who play softball don’t get swings before the game because they don’t have time. If it is right there, I think there is going to be a waiting line before every single game.”