BOISE, IDAHO — Whether it's from the annual success of Boise State's program or maybe the Treasure Valley producing some giant athletes, Boise is known to many as a football town. But one former ball player sees the potential for baseball players in and around the City of Trees and he started a business to make sure we get the most out of them. In today's Made in Idaho, we get on the diamond with the Boise Baseball Academy.
Boise resident Joe Sturges is a former college and minor league baseball player who completely left the game in 1995 after he was released.
"I was away from the game for probably a good ten years. I didn't go to any Minor League games, didn't go to the Hawks. I mean, I walked away from it. It was done," said Sturges.
That lasted up until his first son started playing Little League. Sturges says he often found himself getting out on the field with the little guys trying to help out where he could.
“Kind of brought the fire back and so I started helping out and then it just progressed where I said, 'no, I can’t help out. I gotta actually coach,'" said Sturges.
And that coaching began with a handful of kids, which jumped up to around 70 in just over a year. They had more than enough to start their own traveling all-star team, but they needed a name.
“So I asked the kids at the time--and this was roughly 9 years ago--'what do you guys wanna call yourselves?' And they came up with the name 'Beast.' So when you let nine-year-olds decide what your team name is going to be, you might wanna second-guess that thought," said Sturges.
And not long after, the Boise Baseball Academy was started, which helps athletes ages eight to 18 be the best baseball players they can be. Sturges says it hasn't been easy competing with the pigskin here in the Treasure Valley.
“We’ve always had great baseball athletes here, but we are in a football town. There’s been a lot of kids out of this valley that have gone on to major Division One schools, play professional baseball, dropped out of high school, dropped out of college. There are some great baseball players here--another Boise State has a baseball program. I think you’re going to see the Valley explode baseball-wise," said Sturges.
You want proof of that? Listen to these local team numbers from just the past year.
“The travel organizations have gone from our club and one or two others to probably somewhere in the ballpark of 20 or 25 clubs," said Sturges.
Sturges has now lived in the Treasure Valley for well over 20 years, and certainly loves the "Boise" part of his Boise Baseball Academy.
“When I originally moved here, it was, like I said, just to get a job and get back home. And then I fell in love with the town and the people here are great, and I don’t need to explain that to the people that live here. There’s a reason people come here and I just happened to be fortunate enough to start the program when I did and got our feet in the door a lot sooner than some," said Sturges.
Just recently, Boise Baseball Academy became a Wilson Premiere sponsored team, a huge honor which will allow them to enter exclusive tournaments all around the country and get big discounts on the best gear in the world.