far right, Sean Smith speaks as some of his STiKS Academy
players make commitments to colleges. Pictured, from left:
Nate Grzybowski of New Berlin, committed to play at the
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater; Logan Wonn of
Oconomowoc, committed to play at Jacksonville University;
Nate Anderson of Mukwonago, committed to play at Heartland
Community College; and Connor Moroder of Pewaukee, committed
to play at the University of North Dakota.
- Sean Smith was a standout baseball player drafted out of
Oconomowoc High School in 1992 by the Atlanta Braves organization.
He opened STiKS Academy in 2012. He has expanded its services
since that time and is continuing to grow. The business is the
culmination of a life dedicated to sports and to helping make
dreams come true for local athletes. He spoke recently with The
Freeman about STiKS.
is STiKS Academy?
Academy is an indoor sports facility in Oconomowoc. We rent a lot
of space out to lacrosse programs, soccer clubs, football teams,
baseball and softball teams. We do a lot of baseball training with
lots of classes for hitting, pitching, catching, throwing and
fielding. We also offer a lot of individual lessons for those
looking for more individual attention and most of those are taught
by former and current professional baseball players.
Our teaching staff includes Doug Henry, a former MLB pitcher and
current Kansas City Royals bullpen coach; Paul Wagner, a former
MLB pitcher; Joel Effertz, a current Miami Marlins minor league
pitcher; Adam Ricks, a current Chicago White Sox bullpen catcher;
Pete Kowalski, a former assistant coach at Carroll College and
myself ó a former minor league player.
We also run several clinics/ camps throughout the year for
baseball training. We also have nine of our own STiKS Travel Teams
that compete at high-level tournaments throughout the Midwest and
have kids playing on our teams from all over the state of
We also run some six-onsix slow-pitch softball leagues as well.
So, to sum it up we rent space to teams, run camps, clinics, and classes
throughout year and do a lot of individual instruction and have
nine of our own travel teams.
is the academyís philosophy?
philosophy for the facility and training programs is to provide
Wisconsin kids the opportunity to train 12 months a year with
highly qualified instructors. For our travel teams we want to play
the very best competition and showcase our older players off and
get them in front of as many college coaches as possible. Kids
from Wisconsin have just as much talent as kids from the South. We
are just providing them an opportunity to train all year long and
play against some of the top competition in the country.
inspired you to create this business model and take the leap to
becoming a smallbusiness owner?
minor league baseball and growing up in Wisconsin, I really
didnít have anywhere to train during the winter months and
always wanted to get back into baseball where my true passion has
always been. I wanted to give area kids every opportunity to
experience all of the things that I was able to as a player and
hopefully they are able to reach their full potential as players.
There really isnít anything like this in the area.
did you choose
your current location and how is it working out?
I was playing minor league baseball I used to work on the ski hill
during the winter and always saw the space where the tennis courts
and racquetball courts were and thought it would be an awesome
space to do some baseball training. Itís difficult to find
35,000 square feet with 40-foot tall ceilings. We are able to get
a lot of work in all year long.
The building is almost perfect ó minus a couple pillars ó for
what we need. We are able to get creative and we keep making
improvements throughout the facility. The new building owners have
been absolutely fantastic to work with and have made several
improvements to the building to make it a much better experience.
academy players recently committed to colleges. How does that make
time one of my players commits I get pretty emotional as I see
those guys getting the opportunity to live out their dreams and
play baseball at a very high level. I get very attached to all of
these players as many of them are riding to tournaments with me,
work here at the facility or are utilizing the facility seven days
a week or all of the above. I have the greatest job in the world
and I wake up every morning
and canít wait to get here. I get to share my life lessons with
these kids and hopefully make a difference in their lives. We have
had players commit to schools like University of
Wisconsin-Parkside, Indian Hills Community College, Northern State
University, Jacksonville University, Heartland Community College,
UW-Whitewater, University of North Dakota, University of Florida,
University of Oklahoma, and many more to come very soon. Guess
Iíll be touring the country to watch these guys play.
seems you keep expanding. Where do you see STiKS in the future?
we keep expanding and we arenít done yet. We are adding six new
hitting tunnels right now and we have plans for nine more in 2015.
We want to make sure we are able to service all of our lessons,
classes and our team practices we have here.
is your favorite baseball player of all time? And why?
favorite player of all time was Cal Ripken Jr. The way that he
played with class and you always knew he was going to play every
single day was impressive. And, the loyalty that he showed to the
Baltimore Orioles is nowadays unheard