The Florida Baseball Ranch, which gets a thumbs up from numerous major league players, is movings its top-flight training facility from Plant City to Lakeland.
The ranch has outgrown its digs on South Wiggins Road in Plant City. With the approval of Lakeland city officials last month, construction is scheduled to begin in January on a new facility.
The new baseball training base will be in a rural setting at 537 Laura Road, south of Interstate 4 off Galloway Road.
That location is a 4-mile straight shot up Airport Road/Galloway Road from Lakeland Linder Airport. City Manager Tony Delgado told city commissioners that the remote location offers privacy for MLB stars who will train there.
The people who run Florida Baseball Ranch describe it as more of a baseball “laboratory” than a traditional baseball training ground. It’s a lab that includes groaning and grunting.
Florida Baseball Ranch has declined to give interviews until January, so most of this information comes from the company’s website and a Lakeland Planning & Zoning Board hearing.
The Lakeland facility will be built on 3.8 acres of a 4.2-acre site. Camps at the Florida Baseball ranch are held year round. They cater to organized baseball players of all ages, both pitchers and hitters.
Videos show the Ranch’s boot camps are not for out-of-shape wannabes. There are challenging exercises for balance, strength and agility, including weight training.
Players repeatedly swing sledge hammers against thick tractor tires and underhand heavy balls against solid walls, catch them and do it again.
Pitchers sometimes twist themselves and throw from seemingly unusual angles. Most of the drills are done inside, on artificial turf.
The main philosophies at Florida Baseball Ranch are to take a player one level above where he envisions himself and to train to rehab injuries — or prevent them.
Randy Sullivan of Lakeland is the chief executive at Florida Baseball Ranch. He is a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist.
The focus of the facility is helping players overcome and prevent injuries. Typically just a few players train at a time, he said.
Sullivan has shown particular prowess training baseball’s most precious commodity: pitchers.
Sullivan gets plenty of praise from accomplished pitchers. Likely his biggest boost came from former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who toiled an average five years with the Rays.
In 2019 he had a career year with the Minnesota Twins, going 15-7. In an interview on the widely-watched Major League Baseball Network, Odorizzi gave much credit for the turnaround to Sullivan.
Sullivan says on his website that 53 representatives from 15 MLB teams attended a recent baseball summit in Plant City.
A 5,000 square-foot office building, two 6,000 square foot training buildings and an outside infield will be built at the Lakeland ranch.
There are four or five single-family homes close to the Lakeland site.
Phillip Scearce, a principal planner for the city, said there are some restrictions being placed on the ranch, including limits on how tall outdoor lighting can be and no outdoor public address system.
Sullivan assured planning board members that the Florida Baseball Ranch was “more like a bowling alley” than a high-occupancy business.
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