Construction is underway on a $500,000, privately-funded indoor facility, next to the high school baseball field. The building is expected to be completed as early as January.

JACKSON TWP.  The community's baseball programs will soon have a winter home.

Construction is underway on a $500,000, privately-funded indoor facility, next to the high school baseball field. The building is expected to be completed as early as January.

"It's going to be an amazing thing for the community as a whole," said Kody Gonzalez, president of the Jackson Diamond Club, a booster organization that supports all baseball programs — from youth level through high school — in the township.

The 9,700 square-foot complex will include four batting cages, which can double as a turfed infield area, along with three pitching lanes, a locker room and office space.

The building is just another block in the unified "kindergarten-to-life" structure Jackson High baseball coach Bill Gamble has been touting for baseball in the township.

Last year, the Jackson Baseball Association, which ran youth leagues and travel teams, joined with the high school Diamond Club group, to form one streamlined organization.

"The travel organizations ... that's our lifeblood," said Gamble, who has guided the Polar Bears to a pair of Ohio Division I state championships in the past five years.

Scott Life, a Diamond Club member, said last spring and summer, there were 50 Jackson community teams and 15 travel teams through the various age groups — to go along with four high school teams (two varsity's, a junior varsity and freshman squad).

"We feel like the baseball program is thriving ... but this is definitely the most ambitious project we've pulled off," Life said.

The building itself is patterned off a similar structure in the Berlin Hiland High School area in Holmes County.

Private donors are stepping to the plate. They include Jeff and Stacy Rabbitt, who pledged $100,000; they were honored during a ceremony this week. Gamble said township and school officials have also played key roles, because the facility will be located in South Park and ultimately it will be owned by the school district.

"Without community support, this doesn't happen," Gamble said.

Gamble said he envisions a facility for all teams in the community, as well as pro players on visits home and the roughly 20 former Jackson players now on college teams. He said it will help foster the mentality of being a Jackson Polar Bear for life, which he hopes will breed generations of future youth coaches and organizers.

"It's about building continuity," said Gonzalez.

All those involved said many Jackson teams already pay rental fees to work out and practice in private facilities. Having a home base can save money in the long run.

To make room for the new building, a pair of outdoor batting cages had to be removed from the area. They will be re-installed near one of the youth fields in South Park.

Gamble said volunteers helped with that grunt work.

"Sweat equity," he said.

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