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East County Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2010 7 years ago

East County couple swings for the fences

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Ever since Rob and Danielle Huff slugged their way into the baseball business a decade ago, the East County couple has made a line drive toward success, tripling their revenues producing and installing batting cages and aluminum field equipment, among other items.

And now, after completing jobs such as the completion of cages and outfield wall padding of Yankee Stadium, the Huffs, of C & H Baseball, are ready to take another trip around the bases by incorporating a baseball-training complex for youth into their future Lakewood Ranch manufacturing facility.

The company broke ground on the 17,000-square-foot project April 23. Once complete, it will boast both space for manufacturing as well as an indoor Little League field-sized area for batting cages and pitching machines. The equipment can be moved to make room for indoor field practice, as well.

“This is our hometown,” Danielle Huff said. “We wanted to give back.”

Danielle Huff isn’t sure when she came up with the idea for incorporating a baseball practice area into her manufacturing facility but says it may be the byproduct of attending tradeshows from across the country or from her experiences watching her son play baseball on a traveling team that, at times, had difficulty finding places to practice.

Regardless, the Huffs said they saw a need for such a venue in the East County.

The couple recognizes its dual facility eventually could be a revenue-generator and that it also will give them a chance to showcase some of the products C & H produces by acting as a showroom of sorts for prospective customers.

But the Huffs, who share a background in golf, have long been advocates of youth and sports. The couple firmly believes that a child’s mind is best when active and that sports teach children skills they can use for life. If they can use their facility to do that, they will consider it a home run.

“This building is really more about giving back to the community and offering a youth center,” Danielle Huff said. “This is what we do. We manufacture and then install batting tunnels and turf.”

Besides offering a baseball practice area, the 10,000-square-foot practice complex also will include a homework area for children and a lounge for parents. There may even be a few other amenities such as a rock-climbing wall, Huff said.

The Huffs have operated out of their current manufacturing facility in Bradenton since purchasing the roughly 55-year-old business, originally called C & H Welding & Metals, more than 10 years ago.

The Huffs scouted out their 1.5-acre parcel on Technology Terrace in Lakewood Ranch Business Park on a map in 2005 — two years before the land was platted. They were convinced the location would be ideal because it is just miles away from two high schools and sits near a crossroad with the future 44th Avenue Extension.

Now, with an economic recovery in view and financing finally secured, the Huffs are eager to move forward with the plans they’ve talked about for years.

Bill Jarvis, vice president of commercial construction of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch subsidiary Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, said the roughly $1 million project is expected to be completed in about six months.

Contractors began work early to beat the likely summer rains and are making other preparations, such as building the parking lot before constructing the building, to help ensure the project is completed in a timely manner.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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