Go to any ballpark. Breathe deep and take it all in... The sights, the sounds, even the smells. Fresh cut grass and the leather of a well-worn mitt… The aroma of those healthy ballpark hotdogs wafting through the air... Now try to tell me that some part of you doesn’t instantly feel ten years old. You can’t not fall in love with this game. And like every beautiful relationship, there’s a story to tell. So grab some tissues. Here’s our story.
Softball Fans isn’t a name we take lightly. We’ve always been fans of the game. In 2003 however, we became more than just fans. The popular online softball forum, Mohr Board, started to lose some steam. Forum members were looking for an alternative and the Softball Fans idea was born. Our Softball Fans forum was launched in March 2003 as a place for players to talk about their bats, their teams, tournaments and the calls that didn’t go their way. The slow pitch softball community immediately found a new home. Our forum quickly grew in popularity and because hosting a forum wasn’t cheap, we decided to sell some ad space to help out with the costs. Simple referral ads on the forum started generating enough traffic that we drew the attention of some major brands like Miken and Mizuno. Were we interested in expanding into sales, too? Heck yeah, we were interested in selling some sweet softball gear! One problem though. To become their authorized distributors, they required us to have an actual retail store. Our online forum and an 800 number ringing to a home phone wouldn’t cut it, not if we wanted to sell the good stuff.
Never one to back down from a challenge, the decision was immediately made to expand Softball Fans into a full-fledged retailer. Go big or go home, right? In less than a month, our two-man Softball Fans team moved out of the basement of our founder’s home and set up shop in an old schoolhouse off Cox’s Road in Portage, Michigan. The old school building wasn’t bad, but orders were starting to roll in. By 2006, we needed more room. Sales exploded like a bird hit by a Randy Johnson fastball. Our sweet, hand-made wooden racks were overflowing with inventory and we could barely keep up. The next several years brought more success. Expansion continued with more products from more brands and a bigger staff… and we had to move more than once just to accommodate it all.
So there we were... the Softball Fans team roster had grown. Our location had changed and most importantly, our little company, started by two guys and a simple idea, had made our mark as a premier provider of softball equipment. Time to take a deep breath and a enjoy a little vacation? No way. That’s not our style. We decided to create another company, Hardball Fans, to sell baseball gear.
Still not willing to sit back and rest, we started looking for something more to offer local athletes. Our customers needed a place to practice and play in the off-season, more importantly, a place to train indoors during the cold Michigan winters. There were a few other indoor batting cages around, but there was nothing like we what we had in mind… (rub hands together and insert evil genius laugh here). The search for a new location was on again. And this time we needed something way bigger.
In 2010, our ideas became reality with a state-of-the-art softball and baseball training facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In typical Softball Fans style, (and with a lot of help from coffee and Mountain Dew) our team moved all of our inventory to the new facility over a weekend and then resumed operations the very next Monday.
If you haven’t been to our facility, well… then shame on you. It’s worth visiting. At least we can tell you about it. If you want to get fancy, take the virtual tour here. Prepare yourself. There’s a whole lot of awesome in one building. The new location features (deep breath…) two 70’ and two 55’ baseball cages, two 70’ baseball throwing lanes, nine 55’ softball cages, an indoor 110’ x 110’ turfed professional field, a retail store, a friendly and knowledgeable staff who actually plays the game, and on-site training due to the acquisition of Maroon’s Baseball Training and Worden’s Softball Academy (now appropriately named Softball Fans Academy and Hardball Fans Academy).
Is this heaven? Nope. And before you ask, it’s not Iowa either. It’s Softball Fans - in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And it’s where we still are today.
Our continued success caught the attention of Concourse Sports, so much so that in October 2014, Concourse Sports acquired Softball Fans. We now work as an even bigger team with more resources to keep making big things happen.
Looking back, we were just two guys with humble beginnings who weren’t afraid to dream big and work hard. Now we have the planet’s #1 online softball forum, a decked-out facility that features year-round training, and a jaw-dropping retail store - plus top-notch websites offering the best softball and baseball gear. We’ve truly become a destination for thousands of athletes and fans from all across the country. If you’re in the Kalamazoo area or up for a road trip, come see us at 3433 Midlink Drive. Otherwise, keep exploring our websites. I’m sure you’ll find something you like.
Who knows what the future holds? We just know our story will continue… and we would love for you to be a part of it.