Former Major League Baseball player Jordan Schafer, a Region native who played for the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins, has returned home to open a state-of-the-art athletic training facility in Highland.
Schafer, who played as a center fielder for eight seasons in the big leagues, is opening Athletic Performance Factory, which will train athletes of all ages and skill levels. He located the business in the 40,000-square-foot space at 3150 45th Street in Highland that was previously Gator's gym and most recently a Fuel Fitness owned by former National Football League player Jared Tomich.
"I was born in this area and played Little League here until I was 9 years old when we moved to Florida," Schafer said. "My uncle and family still live here. I made my Major League debut in 2009 for the Braves and played eight years for the Braves, Astros and Twins. When I retired last year, my uncle suggested a sports performance place here."
His goal is to try to bring the type of athletic training that's popular in Florida and the south to the Midwest.
"I wanted to introduce that training to help the athletes here reach their potential and go where they want to go," he said. "The difference is the training there focuses on being more explosive and producing bigger, faster and stronger athletes. Athletes in the Midwest might be more fundamentally sound, but the training in the south makes athletes bigger, faster and stronger. We want to combine that with the fundamentals."
Schafer also hopes to pass on lessons he learned while training with Tom Shaw, who has worked with many professional athletes including Khalil Mack, Saquon Barkley, Dak Prescott and José Altuve.
Given Schafer's background playing baseball for most of his life, Athletic Performance Factory — which has the slogan "where athletes are made" — will focus on baseball and softball with training on hitting, fielding and other skills, but also will offer training and conditioning for other sports. For instance, it plans to offer training camps for running backs and soccer players throughout the year.
Schafer has extensively renovated the former gym so it features a strength and conditioning area, batting cages, pitching mounds, an outdoor infield, an all-purpose astroturf area, sandpits, classrooms, a vision training center, a pro shop and a parent observation deck. It includes cutting-edge analytical performance technologies like Hittrax, K-Vest, Blast Motion and Rapsodo, which gives instant feedback on a batter's exit velocity, launch angle, direction and spin axis.
While youth and high school athletes are expected to make up the bulk of the business, it will serve anyone interested in improving their athletic performance.
"It's an all-sports, all-ages and all-levels facility," Schafer said.
Athletic Performance Factory, which will employ about 15 people when it opens this month, will offer 45-minute-long classes every hour on subjects like strength, speed, agility and sand training.
"Sand is the best thing to increase your vertical jump, speed and explosiveness," Schafer said. "It brings explosiveness and quickness. It's a huge thing for us."
The facility also has classrooms for learning about subjects like proper nutrition and sleep, a study lounge where players can do their homework in between practice sessions, and a protein bar that will offer smoothies, almonds, beef jerky and other light healthy snacks. An indoor infield will let players strengthen their throwing arms and learn skills like bunting, pitching and turning double plays.
Schafer hopes state-of-the-art technology like a machine that does a body mass index analysis will make it a destination for athletes throughout the Chicago area.
"I grew up in Highland until I was 9 years old. Now that I'm done playing I want to give back to the community," he said. "It's a different way of training, whether you're a beginner or elite athlete. It will push you whether you're trying to get in shape or trying to make your high school team."
Athletic Performance Factory will be open from 3-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday.
The facility will have open houses for the public at 9 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday, and is planning a grand opening celebration on Oct. 21.
For more information, call 219-750-1087, visit trainapf.com or find the business on Facebook.
The business news you need
With a weekly newsletter looking back at local history.