Nothing is more satisfying for Brendan Zepp then when the lightbulb turns on for a young baseball player learning a new skill.
Zepp, who was an assistant varsity baseball coach at Westlake High School from 2002-12 and later its head coach from 2013-17, loves being around the game and teaching it. But with a growing family, he opted to step away from leading a high school program after the ‘17 season.
After his run with the Demons, he started the Three Outs Baseball Academy, a grassroots clinic run out of the city’s recreation center, as well as The National Basketball Academy facility, which he runs over the summer months at 1200 Chester Industrial Parkway in Avon. Along with friends and former varsity head coaches Joe Cheney and Jeff Short, Zepp continues to teach area youth the fundamentals of the sport.
“That’s the one thing that I love about it, seeing the improvement,” said Zepp, who spent 20 years teaching in the Westlake City School District before taking over as the Special Education Director for Buckeye Local Schools in Medina.
Over the past year, a large piece of turf housed inside the spacious TNBA building gave Zepp an idea: what if the Three Outs Baseball Academy had a permanent home?
“As a coach, a 4,500-square foot piece of turf is like gold,” Zepp said. “I talked to a few buddies of mine and decided to pitch this to Steve Vega (who leases the building).”
Within this space, there’s a volleyball court, two basketball courts and a workout space. Zepp said Vega had a piece of turf, so Zepp proposed bringing in his Three Outs Academy as a year-round indoor facility.
“That’s how it all started,” he said.
Zepp and his colleagues have been hard at work setting up the academy’s space, as well as lining up instructors to fulfill the goal of being an off-season haven for baseball players of all ages.
On Nov. 12, he added a 70-foot batting cage, and put up large curtains to cordon off the academy’s space. Before it formally opens Dec. 2, he’ll have pitching mounds and a pitching machine installed. Zepp estimated that he and his partners have spent around $15,000 to outfit the facility.
A unique feature of the Three Outs Academy is that Zepp and his staff will provide many of the smaller pieces of equipment – like bases, balls and netting – that coaches would normally need to bring with them for clinics. The hope is that teams of all age groups or even individual players will come for instruction in a variety of skills, from hitting to strength and speed training. And they’ll participate according to COVID-19 guidelines developed by the Ohio High School Athletic Association for use at the high school level. Groups will remain smaller, instructors will be masked at all times and equipment will be sanitized after every use.
“Our approach is to do it all,” Zepp said.
The staff of instructors working with Zepp will bring a lifetime of experience. He currently has seven coaches ready to work with players, including Thomas D’Angelis, a current associate head coach at Baldwin-Wallace University, former San Diego Padres draft pick and Lake Erie Crushers player Emmanuel Quiles, Rocky River High School assistant coach Tim Clark, Fairview High School assistant Kevin Collins, Avon Little League All-Stars coach Bill Predovich, B-W Exercise Science and Athletic Coaching major and former University of Georgia football strength staff intern Q’darr Robinson and Cheney, the former head coach at Bay High School.
While the Three Outs Academy clinics will continue to run throughout the year, it will also begin sponsoring travel teams in 2021. There are currently 70 players in the program, comprising two 8U teams, a 10U team, two 11U teams and a 13U team. Zepp’s seven-year-old daughter, Nora, will likely play catcher for one of those 8U teams, with Brendan serving as one of the coaches.
From Dec. 28-30, the academy will host a clinic that will cover hitting, throwing, fielding, pitching, catching and baserunning. The cost for players already in the Three Outs program is $110, and $120 for newcomers.
To learn more about Three Outs Baseball Academy, visit www.threeoutsacademy.com, @ThreeOutsAcad on Twitter or 3outsacademy on Instagram.
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