Rec facility opens its doors

Published 12:39 am Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — Chris Rayborn is hoping the “Field of Dreams” adage is true — especially since it concerns baseball.

After spending several years in pro baseball and coaching in college, the Natchez native is in the process of building a sports recreational facility, called Advance Sports. When it’s finished, Rayborn hopes athletes from all around will come hang out and practice whichever sport they want to get better in.

“I haven’t been in Natchez since I was 18, and I talked to some people in hopes of opening up something like this,” Rayborn said.

“I started doing individual baseball lessons in December and January, and helped put on the Natchez baseball camp over the Christmas holidays. I was finally able to raise enough to open this place up.”

Rayborn purchased the old Woods Auto building next to Solar Supply, and opened its doors for athletes May 1. He plans to make some additions to the indoor part of the facility, and the focal point will be teaching area youth about baseball.

“We’ve already had a few local teams work out here. We’ll be able to work with pitcher and hitters on their bullpens and batting practice,” Rayborn said.

“We’ll teach them the physical part of the game, as well as the mental part, like knowing what to do in certain situations or what to look for in this count. Baseball is a mental game, and the fundamentals and little things are really important. I think a lot of these kids miss that these days.”

The facility already has two indoor pitching mounds, one 60-foot batting cage and a recreational room, and a lot more equipment is on the way, Rayborn said.

“The whole baseball side will have Astroturf, and we plan to add two 70-foot batting cages and another mound,” Rayborn said.

“We’re also planning to add a basketball goal in the back, and make an entire half court. We’ll also get a soccer net for kids to practice shooting goals, and I plan to get the equipment to do speed, agility and regular football drills.”

With equipment ranging across several different sports, Rayborn said he isn’t focusing exclusively on baseball.

“Baseball, football, basketball, girls softball, soccer… Whatever they want to practice. It can even be a place where you bring your kid up here to work with without me fooling with them,” Rayborn said.

Rayborn plans to get instructors for several different sports to come and host clinics for youth every so often, he said. Getting better at sports is not the only good thing about the facility, however.

“The best thing about this place is that kids can come and be around other good kids,” Rayborn said.

“When school gets out, we’ll open this place from 10 a.m., and we’ll work with kids for as long as they want to work. I’ll stay as late as possible, as long as they want to work.

After playing at Meridian Community College, Rayborn was drafted and signed by the San Diego Padres, and spent three seasons playing minor league baseball. After that, he went back to Meridian to coach for several years.

“I feel like playing with and coaching these athletes, and what all I’ve learned from doing that, I can bring it back to Natchez. Right now, there isn’t really anyone willing to work with kids seven days a week, but we’ll be open all seven days,” he said.

Advance Sports is located at 206 Seargeant S. Prentiss Drive. The cost of using the facility is $10 per day, or $60 a month for a family membership. For more information, Rayborn can be reached at 601-807-5153.