A new business in Westwood is offering baseball and softball instruction from athletes with professional experience on the field.
Mike Just, who has played for several professional teams and was signed to the Houston Astros for part of 2008, has assembled a group of instructors with first-hand knowledge of what it takes to make it to the pro level for his business, Just Hits. Besides himself, the staff includes pitcher Ryan Page, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, and hitting instructor Greg Perret, who played professionally in Australia and Belgium, among others.
"My biggest thing was the keep the level of instruction high," Just said.
Just, who grew up in Woodcliff Lake, founded Just Hits three years ago in a trailer at Saint Joseph High School in Montvale. The location was not ideal, but the quality of instruction was enough to make a name for himself, and he soon moved to a 2,500-square-foot facility in Park Ridge.
Just brought in more players he'd met during his career as instructors, but they still had a 200-person waiting list, so he decided to move to the larger 11,000-square-foot facility on Charles Street in Westwood, which is set to open soon. There were some other advantages to the Westwood location, he said.
"Westwood is a big baseball town," Just said. "It's really good for us."
Just Hits offers one-on-one training for those who are interested in improving their skills in hitting, pitching, fielding, speed or any other factors related to baseball or softball. They also have strength training exactly like those used by major league players, so that aspiring players can learn the correct techniques.
"It's designed to build the entire baseball or softball player," Just said.
Just also noted that they do not charge for sending emails or making phone calls to coaches or scouts that he and his instructors have made connections with over the years. Just said he will make a call when he has gotten to know a player and understands where that player could fit on a team. Making personal connections is an important part of working with the students, he said.
For Just, the new facility is a big leap. The building, which has been transformed from a former warehouse, has room for as many as 11 lanes at once, and he's optimistic he can fill them. Just takes inspiration from a variety of sources, and hopes to inspire his students as well — both athletically and academically. Some of Just Hits' inspirational decor includes a Robert Frost quote painted on the wall and a photo of a barren field superimposed with Walt Disney and the "Cinderella Castle" at Disney World.
"I try to emulate big, successful minds," Just said.
To learn more about Just Hits or to schedule a lesson, check out their website.