Christmas came early for Chad Abernathy, a 2001 graduate of Truman High School.
The longtime area baseball coach and innovator is playing with his newest toy that will be featured at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Grand Opening of his Next Level Sports Complex, which is located at 1215 Northwest Pamela Blvd. in Grain Valley.
It’s called HitTrax, and it tracks the hits of a batter in a similar way a golf simulator follows the flight of a ball struck by a golfer.
Batters can follow their hits on a yet-to-be installed 135-inch HD television that will take over the east wall of the room that features the HitTrax machine.
“This is going to be pretty incredible,” Abernathy said, “it’s my new toy.”
He did little toying around in high school where he was a three-time all-area, three-time all-conference and two-time all-state player at Truman. He still holds the school records for career batting average (.452), RBIs in a season (41), RBIs in a career (100), hits in a season (53), hits in a career (151), stolen bases in a season (39) and stolen bases in a career (87).
After high school, Abernathy went to play baseball at the University of Alabama. He later transferred to Maple Woods Community College where he was a junior college All-American and then played at Oklahoma State University for the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
He then played pro ball for the UVV Red Lions in the Netherlands, where he set a club record for the most home runs in one season.
“Because of baseball, I’ve been able to travel all over the United States and the world,” said Abernathy, who was inducted into the Truman Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. “Baseball has given me so much, and now, it’s time I gave back to the sport and the kids in my hometown.”
Abernathy, who is also an accomplished singer and songwriter, is putting the guitar away for a while to concentrate on his new baseball academy – which has been around for a while, but not at its newest location.
“I’ve been working with kids for a long time,” the director of player development and head coach of the 18-under NLS Monarchs said, “in fact, I’ve worked with six or seven kids from The Examiner’s all-area baseball team last year. And I’m going to be working with a lot more who have the chance to make your next all-area team. There’s a lot of talent in the area.”
The Next Level Sports Complex offers a variety of services to baseball and softball participants. The 10,000 square foot complex has a 70-square foot infield area, hitting and pitching cages and six hitting tee stations.
There is also the “Hit Lab,” where Abernathy puts his 12 years of coaching experience to use via the scientific side of the sport that has produced resounding results for his students.
Kyle Gehrs, a Truman graduate who starred at UCM and spent some time in the Houston Astros organization, and Abernathy’s sister, Kristen, are members of his teaching staff.
“We have a small staff because I believe in quality over quantity,” Abernathy said, in an office that’s walls are covered with awards he and his teams have garnered over the years. “We’re going to have a lot of one-on-one instruction and our classes are never going to be over 12 to 14 players.
“We’re going to be work intensive and get a lot done in a short period of time. This is my new home. I have a place downtown, but I just plan on getting something to sleep on because I’m going to be spending a lot of hours here. I just hope everyone I’ve worked with in the past is as excited as I am.”
One dad who might be more excited than Abernathy is his longtime friend and former William Chrisman opponent Nate Donaldson, whose 10-year-old daughter Kelsie works with Abernathy.
“Chad’s the best,” Donaldson said. “I have video of Kelsie’s swing from two years ago, to today, and it’s the same. He makes it fun and challenging for the kids – kids of all ages – that’s why he’s the best.”
For more information about the Next Level Sports Complex, call (816) 876-0255.