Get into the swing of things: New training facility will help baseball, softball players refine approach at plate

SwingSync Lab 2

SwingSync Labs is providing baseball and softball players a state-of-the-art facility to improve their swing. | Photo courtesy Ryan Sparks

QUINCY — Ryan Sparks is combining his technology experience with his passion for baseball to create an innovative venue for players of all ages to refine their swing.

SwingSync Labs will officially open April 1 inside the Verti-Go complex at 2306 N. 12th Street. The facility is equipped with swing analytics, training tools at six designated stations and on-demand instructional videos to personalize training for both baseball and softball players.

“There’s a shortage of space to hit indoors,” Sparks explained. “I was talking to some folks in my circle who are youth coaches, and they were asking the same question: Where can we go to hit during the winter?

“There’s Complete Game (Training Academy) in town and they offer a lot of private instruction. But my experience is working with younger kids … and that type of an environment can be very intimidating for some. So, the idea is to be able to come in here and work at your own pace.”

The 41-year-old Sparks played baseball at Quincy High School. After graduating in 2001, he was a preferred walk-on as a pitcher at Eastern Illinois University but tore his rotator cuff that fall. He played his sophomore season at John Wood Community College before returning to EIU to finish his business degree.

He began a career as a tech sales executive for NEC Display Solutions of America in the Chicagoland area before moving to St. Louis in 2010, where he spent 12 years working first for NEC and then Elo. He served as a volunteer baseball coach for the Boys and Girls Club of St. Louis.

Sparks married his wife, Carolyn, in 2019 and they welcomed twins during the pandemic. Then he suffered a heart attack at age 39.

“That shook up our priorities, so we decided to move back to Quincy, where my family primarily is,” he said.

Sparks is now a real estate investor and agent in Quincy and is in his first season as an assistant varsity coach for the QHS baseball program.

He pitched his idea of SwingSync Labs to Tony Douglas, a high school classmate and close friend who opened Verti-Go, an athletic performance business, in 2021 in a building leased from Brown Electric. Working with both Tony and his father, Jerry Douglas, Sparks was able to lease space on the west end of the facility.

He installed a netted batting cage where players can either hit off a tee or from live pitching. Sensors on the bat send information to an iPad that provides real-time swing analysis and data points. There also is a video capture of each swing that players and coaches can put in slow-motion mode to review.

“The tool tells you what you are doing well and where you need improvement,” Sparks said. “You can take that feedback, pull up the drill library, and look at specific drills for, say, ‘I need to work on contact or my plane or my launch points,’ and then go through the drills (shown on a separate TV screen).

“It also looks at your age group, whether it’s youth, high school or collegiate, and compares your swing to thousands of data points across the country. Then, after your session, you come in and do another round of BP and compare the two. Ideally, we want to see improvement.”

Ryan Sparks, owner of SwingSync Labs, does soft toss with a baseball player inside the new facility in Quincy. | Photo courtesy Ryan Sparks

An app is also available at additional cost that players can attach to a personal device to review their data at home.

“I think this is a game-changer,” Sparks said. “Kids like to be able to pull up and reference certain things like, ‘What’s my exit velocity? What is my attack angle or my launch angle?’ There’s a real value in the how on being able to improve.”

Another station enables players to hit heavier balls off a tee, so the ball seems lighter when contact is made during actual play. Players can work on their stance and swing while practicing hitting a variety of pitches — inside or outside, fastball or curveball, for example — and work on either pulling the ball or hitting the other way.

There also is a station for soft toss with smaller balls and narrower bats to improve hand-eye coordination and another for hitting larger balls. Two other stations work to improve wrist strength and bat control.

Players are limited to five minutes at each station.

“We don’t want to train bad habits, that’s why we limit the number of balls we put out and put them on the clock,” Sparks said. “We also want to keep it simple because you can inundate kids with a lot of verbiage, and that can be overwhelming. We try to identify one thing that they could work on and use as a building block, master that, and then go from there.

“Baseball, and softball, is all about reps. You have to get in the reps and put in the work. We don’t envision this as being a playground. This is for serious athletes or those who want to get better. But we also want to have an environment where it is fun.”

SwingSync Labs will be available by appointment from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Patrons will be given a code to a digital lockbox for entry. Anyone 16 or younger must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult.

There are one-time and monthly individual and team memberships available at varying costs, depending on usage. There also are rates for teams that come to Quincy for high school or youth competitions that want to get in swings before playing or between games.

The Quincy High School baseball team utilized the facility each Saturday during the winter in preparation for the spring season. Some individuals also have worked out there in recent weeks as sort of a dry run.

“I can’t be here to provide one-on-one instruction, and that’s not our intent,” Sparks said. “This is to provide a facility for coaches, or a dad or a mom that wants to come in to work with their son or daughter, to give them access and let them take advantage of it.

“I’ll train the parent, or the coach, on how to use everything when they come through the free demo session. By leveraging the technology, you don’t need to be a Major League hitting coach to know how to run through drills.”

Players, parents or coaches interested in joining SwingSync Labs can contact Sparks by phone at 217-549-3609, or by email at They can also access the SwingSync Labs Facebook page or Google business profile.

Should this phase be successful, Sparks would eventually like to expand to be able to offer space for throwing and fielding.

“After my heart attack, where I had a very real dose of my own mortality, I started thinking about what I leave behind is ultimately relationships and the impact that I have on others,” Sparks said.

“So being able to marry my love for baseball with my passion for impacting youth is a very good spot to be in. It’s provided me with a lot of joy. If you can marry what you do with what you love doing, that’s a win-win.”

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