Jonah Bayliss is opening A1 Pitching Academy on Hoosac Street in Adams.
ADAMS, Mass. — After a decade of playing professional baseball, Jonah Bayliss wasn't sure what he wanted to do.
He took a job as a pitching coach at a baseball academy to pay the bills as he tried to figure out his post-baseball life.
And then something happened.
A 10-year-old he had been teaching launched a perfect pitch. The child's eyes lit up above a large smile.
"The look on his face; I'll never forget it," Bayliss said on Tuesday, as he was putting final touches on what is now his own baseball academy on Hoosac Street. "It was quite an experience. It was quite a feeling."
After his baseball career, the Williamstown native started coaching at a Nashville, Tenn., academy as well as for a high school-level travel team.
A year and a half ago, he and his wife had their first child and the frequency of their visits to his hometown increased so much that they decided to move back to be closer to both their families.
Now, Bayliss is opening A1 Pitching Academy in the former Waverly Mill, hoping to see the same smile he saw in Tennessee light up the faces of youth here.
From strength and conditioning to mechanics to the mental part of the game, Bayliss is looking to pass all of the lessons he learned in every level of ball to young ballplayers here so they can be prepared for the future.
"The longer you play, the talent catches up to you. What sets you apart is your brain," Bayliss said. "There are guys in the minor leagues just as talented but the guys in the big leagues have it between the ears."
And Bayliss knows all about big-league players after facing the best of them. Bayliss was drafted out of Trinity College by the Kansas City Royals and make his Major League debut in 2005. After breaking into the show, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 2007, he broke camp with the team and later wound up with the Blue Jays. He finished that season in Japan and returned stateside to play in the Houston Astros farm club and later signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. He finished his career in independent leagues.
But he remembers his early days at Mount Greylock Regional High School and, then the private school he transferred to shortly afterward to play hockey. He didn't know then about recovery, matching strength and conditioning to the mechanics or preparing for games and seasons. He remembers one particular home run while playing professional ball and his pitching coach explaining why he threw the wrong pitch.
And he wishes he had access to more information earlier in his career before having to learn by trial against professional ballplayers.
"I tell my clients 'I don't want you to listen to me because I played Major League Baseball. I want you to listen to me because everything you are afraid of failing at, I've failed 1,000 times,'" Bayliss said. "There is a whole realm of knowledge that I wasn't exposed to until I played professional baseball."
He is taking all of those lessons to construct programs for players from Little League and up. He will focus on one-on-one lessons, although he does have a group option for as many as four. He moved into a small second-floor area in the mill, which his brother owns, and has made teaching his new full-time job.
"I've built-in levels to please everyone," Bayliss says of the lessons and options he created for the academy. "I wanted to allow kids the opportunity, if they wanted, to customize a program."
On the side, he is looking into getting into coaching at the high school level and is in talks to create an all-star travel team of Berkshire ballplayers.
A story plays out in his head of players taking lessons with him, and when they get to the college level, the coaches there have nothing new to tell them.
"It was a very, very big learning curve for me. I don't want kids to feel off guard," Bayliss said. "It's a really good feel when you are entering the next level and the skill sets and knowledge, you already have."
He says lessons on how to prepare for playing schedules, which get busier and busier as the level increases, how to recover after pitching and the type of commitment needed to become a good player are all skills — in addition to the mechanics — he can help instill.
Bayliss says he isn't really sure what to expect with opening his own academy, which is for more than just pitching, but had to take a shot at it. With his brother owning the building, it was fairly easy for him to open the academy.
"The luxury with us coming home is there wouldn't be a whole lot of hoops to go through. It just seemed like a natural fit," he said. "Everything seemed too perfect to not try."
The town approved his operating permits about two weeks ago. Since then, he's been repainting, installing a batting cage, pitching mound and work out equipment. He put up temporary walls to confine the area but hopes to take those down and expand in the future. An open house to let the community come see what he has to offer is set for Tuesday, Nov. 5, from 5 to 9.
He just finished coaching a fall baseball team and is still working with other area coaches in planning the new travel team he hopes to create.
For more information, contact Bayliss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-925-9577.