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“I think the edge that I get is from the surprise factor. Being a female in a male dominated business and on the baseball field and being under 30 years old seems to be a double whammy.”

Kate Mitchum’s passion for sports and fitness began over 20 years ago while watching her dad train for power lifting events and football games. Although always active, Kate spent much of her early adult years overweight. In order to pursue her passion of baseball, Kate knew she needed to get in better shape to be able to make it through a nine inning game. After losing 70 pounds Kate is proud to be the only female player in the men’s Midwest Suburban Baseball League. Kate knows as well as anyone how hard it can be to lose weight, she was determined to reach her goals, and through dedication and hard work she did.

Kate co-founded, Go Hardball, a company that is dedicated to making baseball training accessible to athletes of all ages and abilities. Their goal is to provide a positive environment in which to train, encourage, and advance athletes in their pursuit of learning the game of baseball, whether recreational or competitive. They strive to impact the lives of all athletes by emphasizing development of the mind, body, and spirit utilizing the universal language of baseball.

MO: Where did your passion for baseball come from?

Kate: My passion for baseball came from my Aunt Heather and my Mom, Sequana. My aunt played baseball with the boys when she was growing up and my mom coached her team. I have always wanted to be just like my aunt, she taught me how to be a die hard Red Sox fan so it was only natural that someday I would follow her lead into baseball. My passion for the training side came from my Dad, Charlie. I remember being fascinated watching him train for football or for power lifting competitions. He is so strong and powerful I wanted to know how he did that, and now I do! My Dad has a wealth of knowledge from his years of training and I often call on him with questions.

MO: How did you decide to take your love of baseball and turn it into a business?

Kate: I took a leap of faith and began playing baseball with a Chicago-area women’s team in 2004. I hadn’t played baseball in almost 20 years but once I started again I couldn’t stop, I absolutely fell in love. I became a prominent member of the team and a strong advocate for women’s baseball. After 2 seasons of building the team I met my boyfriend and business partner Tony Feo on the baseball field. He was able to help the team gain direction and momentum with our dream of building a Chicago-area women’s league.

While trying to attract players to fulfill our target of 4 teams the differing abilities of the players became extremely obvious. The players that we found had either played competitive fast pitch softball, recreational softball or hadn’t ever played at all. Tony and I were given the task of creating a pre-season training program. After searching through countless training facilities we discovered that they either wanted to charge an arm and a leg for rental time, or they didn’t make me or my teammates feel at all comfortable. A friend of ours offered us the use of the gymnasium at the school where he worked for a nominal fee. The only catch being that we needed to carry our own insurance. Although the league had insurance Tony and I wanted to be sure that some of the instructors that we were using (long time teammates of Tony’s) wouldn’t be held liable.

So in 2007 Go Hardball was born! Since it’s inception it has changed forms from an on-location business that we ran out of our home, to a subcontractor in another sports facility to finally our current state running out of our own dedicated facility. We talked about owning a facility on our first date in April of 2006 and here we are, we did it!

MO: Do you feel that you’re at a disadvantage being a female in a male dominated field or does it give you an edge?

Kate: I think the edge that I get is from the surprise factor. Being a female in a male dominated business and on the baseball field and being under 30 years old seems to be a double whammy. But once people get to see how much passion I have for what I do, that I have a considerable amount of knowledge about baseball and that I have a very unique point of view I think I become very relatable and that is the edge that I have.

MO: How have you been able to grow from an on location business operating out your home to a fully fledged sports training academy with a dedicated facility?

Kate: A lot of careful planning! Our growth has been slow but steady. As I said before, it has always been our goal to one day have our own facility. One thing that hasn’t changed is our purpose statement “Play for Life”. Those words really capture how we have always operated our business. We’ve really built our business on an initiative to help everyone that passes through our academy be able to play for life no matter their age, or ability. I think because we’ve really stuck to our roots our growth has made sense to our clients and that has bred a lot of loyalty.

MO: How do you try to encourage the development of the mind, body, and spirit through language of baseball?

Kate: Our first priority is to educate our clients. The classes and clinics that we hold at our facility are different because we have a very high instructor to student ratio (1:4). The skills and the age groups are very specific which allows us to design the material to be very age appropriate. The other reason for the small group format is that we want the kids to be able to ask questions, to feel respected, and to have fun. Most of our instructors are from the Lake Zurich community and they have a real loyalty to the youth here. They are exceptional motivators and are able to form a great bond with the kids. We feel so lucky to have such great instructors; they really do an amazing job in keeping our mission alive.

MO: Have you seen an increase in people using baseball to get in shape?

Kate: Yes. I think Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative has really brought a lot of awareness to the epidemic that we are facing in America. Our weekly clinics include many different fitness focused activities that apply to almost all sports. Since we are an indoor facility in IL where we do get a just a little inclement weather, kids can come in, continue their programs and play year round.

When I started training 5 years ago as a general population personal trainer and really learned a lot about nutrition and general health. Now my specialties include special populations and sports performance, I’m able to bring a lot of the nutritional knowledge to the kids which I think is very beneficial and makes for a very well rounded program. It’s so awesome that we get to work with kids of all ages and abilities and to help them get in shape and stay in shape.

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