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By Rhonda Miller
PBN Staff Writer
By Rhonda Miller
PBN Staff Writer
Baseball wasn’t in the original career plans for Jeff Sweenor, but on the business side of the sport he has found a true calling.
“Baseball is Our Life,” proclaims the website for his 1-year-old Bomb Squad Baseball Co.
He played a little baseball when he was a kid. But it was a long time before life finally led him back to the sport.
His high school and college jobs were at the family business, Sweenor’s Chocolates.
As a student at the University of Rhode Island, Sweenor was on the crew team that won a national championship in 1984. After he got his degree in exercise science from URI in 1985, he spent two years as head coach for rowing at the University of Michigan. In 1987 and 1988 he was on the U.S. National Rowing Team.
Then came his Rhode Island construction company, Sweenor Builders, formed in 1989.
“My intention was just to build my own house,” he said. “But I enjoyed it so much, I never stopped.”
Baseball took hold when his son was 8 years old and Sweenor began coaching the team.
“I started coaching Little League. Then I started a travel baseball team, the Rip Tides, in South County,” he said.
When a friend opened an indoor hitting cage in an old studio over a liquor store and Sweenor helped get the batting business running, the seeds of his new business were planted.
Time spent in Bradenton, Fla., while his son went to IMG Academy, a school and sports-training facility, deepened Sweenor’s interest in baseball. It also ignited his vision of providing athletic training and opportunities, as well as a community-center atmosphere for young people.
“I’m very impatient. So when I decide I’m going to do something, I usually jump in with both feet, both arms and everything else,” said Sweenor. “I invest all of my effort in becoming successful in everything I choose to do.”
Sweenor’s construction experience made it possible for him to jump in at full speed to develop the 13,000-square-foot Bomb Squad Baseball Company.
“It was an old textile mill, Palisades Mill, and it gave us a lot of square footage. It gives us a 200-foot-long playing surface,” Sweenor said. ”
Bomb Squad Baseball Co. offers memberships that allow practice time. There are also baseball clinics and private lessons.
“One of the really nice things is the osmosis effect,” Sweenor said. “The younger kids get to see the older kids in action. That’s really powerful.”
Fifteen-year-old Chris Collins, a student at South Kingstown High School, has been coming to Bomb Squad Baseball since it opened.
“There were quite a few baseball spots in South Kingstown before, but they were smaller and they were mainly just the cages for hitting,” Collins said. He’s also a catcher for the Rhode Island Rebels travel team, based at the Bomb Squad Baseball Co., as well as an ambassador for the facility, assisting at clinics and birthday parties. That helps him earn money toward his expenses for the travel team.
“I probably spend an hour-and-a-half to two hours a day here. I go five, six or sometimes seven days a week,” Collins said.
His dad, Mark Collins, said it’s a safe place that gives students, like his son, an opportunity to work to their full potential.
“There were some other facilities where you could hit and do a bit of throwing, but this is a level above,” Mark Collins said. In January, Sweenor announced another level of development – a new Rhode Island-based summer collegiate baseball league, the Ocean State Waves, headquartered at Bomb Squad Baseball. The Ocean State Waves will play 22 homes games at Old Mountain Field in South Kingstown.
“We are excited to be part of the New England Collegiate Baseball League,” said Sweenor, who is owner and operator of the Ocean State Waves. “The Waves will provide a highly competitive level of baseball, as well as fun and affordable entertainment.”
Other plans include expanding the softball program and developing a girls’ travel program.
Bomb Squad is a business, but it’s more than that, Sweenor said.
“I didn’t do this to make money. I’m sure I’ll never get my money back that I put into this place,” Sweenor said. “What’s really important is seeing the kids grow and develop into athletes and young adults.” •
Bomb Squad Baseball Co.
OWNER: Jeff Sweenor
TYPE OF BUSINESS: Indoor baseball-training facility
LOCATION: 1174 Kingstown Road, South Kingstown
EMPLOYEES: 16 (six full time)
YEAR ESTABLISHED: 2011
ANNUAL SALES: $150,000