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The Fred Hill Sports Academy

NJB Feature Story

To hear Coach Jimmy Hill and Coach Pete Connell tell it, you would no doubt agree that it’s a no-brainer. Training young ball players in the fundamentals of baseball, that is. New Jersey Baseball caught up with these ambitious, resourceful owners of The Fred Hill Sports Academy (FHSA) in late summer 2008.

FHSA - NJ’s Newest
Baseball Training Academy

Open for business only since October 2007, the FHSA has already achieved an impressive following in the peaceful town of Verona, New Jersey, and its surrounding communities. Players and teams from the neighboring towns of Montclair, Fairfield, Cedar Grove, and the Caldwells, among others, have frequented FHSA’s state-of-the art facility, and the list is growing.

Located at 5 Fairview Avenue in downtown Verona, FHSA occupies a building that once was a bowling alley. Today the hardwood lanes give way to six tunnels for pitching and hitting. Heavy mesh, double netting separates one tunnel from another, protecting players, trainers, and coaches from thrown or batted balls in adjoining tunnels. As necessary, teams may close the netting on its ceiling tracks to open its turf field to a full-size infield.

FHSA’s competitive rates for Private Lessons and for Buddy Lessons accentuates Coach Hill’s and Coach Connell’s core belief in “differentiated instruction” for all players, regardless of their ages, levels of play, and ability levels. Non-automated pitching machines encourage a personalized approach to training that FHSA demands of its instructors.

State-of-the-Art Training in a Safe Environment

This personalized training philosophy carries over to the teams that use FHSA. While not everyone opts for private sessions with a trainer, the configuration of training equipment within a multi-faceted training environment encourages coaches to work with their players on a one-to-one basis.

Learning the Basics

At FHSA players, coaches, and teams may experience a variety of classes and clinics in baseball and softball. While all classes focus on the fundamentals of the game, students may receive instruction at advanced levels of pitching, hitting, and fielding, aimed at preparing them for scholastic and collegiate competition.

Small groups of players, as few as three at a time, may form to “Create a Class,” a unique feature of FHSA that does not appear in any other training academy in the State that NJB has seen. In this way, players and coaches may work on specific aspects of their game that reflect team strategies and tendencies. Teams that like to bunt and run, for example, may hone the skills required for that particular type of execution. Similarly, teams might wish to drill proper defensive techniques for reacting to squeeze plays, so that they will react instinctively when those game situations present themselves.

Teaching the Basics

As Coach Jim likes to say, “Hustle beats brawn.” Not surprisingly, this philosophy reflects that of his famous dad, Fred Hill, Head Baseball coach at Rutgers University. With the “great mix of trainers” available at FHSA, FHSA is dedicated to providing the best available preparation for the upcoming season.

As resurgent interest in baseball continues to grow throughout the Garden State, the goals that Coach Hill and Coach Connell have set for FHSA include expanding their concept of training in baseball fundamentals to higher age levels. For now, though, they will continue to target the youth leagues Verona and surrounding communities and let the word spread locally about the high quality instruction that FHSA provides.

New Jersey Baseball Magazine wishes Coach Jim and Coach Pete the best of luck as they bring the best of baseball training to players, families, and leagues in their area. Make sure that you contact them at 973-239-FHSA (3472) or at for further information and to schedule a private session.



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New Jersey Baseball & New Jersey Baseball Online are your original source for stories about the human interest side of baseball. Coverage ranges from travel team baseball and showcase tournaments to girls’ softball and women’s fast pitch to recruits and prospects; performance enhancing drugs and substances, such as steroids and human growth hormone (HGH); health & nutrition; sportsmanship; the best batting cages & baseball training academies, such as Frozen Ropes, The Hit Doctor, Zoned, Extra Innings, Batters Box, & Dave Gallagher Baseball Academy, women in baseball, youth baseball baseball history,, sports officiating and umpiring, field maintenance, men’s amateur baseball, and many others. NJB is also your first and best source for baseball rules and interpretations through its unique Ask The Ump feature.

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