by May 16, 2024North Brunswick, Sports

Young baseball and softball players are reaching their peak at the Team BEAST training facility in Belville.

On a chilly Saturday afternoon in January, dozens of young athletes work up a sweat inside Belville’s BEAST baseball and softball training facility. Some run drills with their travel ball teams, others work on strength and conditioning exercises, while a few more hone their hitting technique inside the batting cages. With winter workouts in full swing, players know the effort and dedication they put in now will pay off in the season to come, and every day is a good day to play ball.

Originating in Huntington, New York, in 2013, the BEAST organization (which stands for Be Elite Advanced Sports Training) arrived in Brunswick County thanks to Hampstead resident Ruben Echavarria. Growing up in Long Island, Echavarria played baseball through high school and college, where reoccurring knee injuries eventually led to his switch from player to club baseball coach. Upon graduating from Penn State and beginning a career as a math teacher, Echavarria worked part-time with BEAST giving baseball lessons and coaching travel ball teams.

Belville The BEAST Baseball

After getting married and having three children with another on the way, Echavarria and his wife, Dana, made the financial decision to move to North Carolina in 2017. While working as a middle school math teacher in Wilmington, Echavarria was approached in 2020 with a proposal to start up a chapter of BEAST in the Carolinas as an extension of the New York location. Eager to get back into the sport, he accepted the position as BEAST’s head of operations and began renting batting cage space at the Wilmington Indoor Sports Complex. He soon formed a small team of other experienced coaches to help him build the travel teams (called Team BEAST), give lessons and run camps and clinics.

“People soon caught onto us and saw what we were building and how we interacted with our players and families,” Echavarria says. “We kept gaining more clients on the lessons side, which led to more clients wanting to form teams, so we outgrew that facility and started hunting for our own spot.”

The BEAST Belville NC Training

BEAST settled into an 8000-square-foot indoor space off U.S. Highway 17 in Belville. The facility opened in January of 2023 with seven batting cages, a HitTrax virtual baseball simulator lane, office space and a dedicated speed and strength area for customizable training and conditioning. These added offerings allow players to get coached not only on elements of the game, but also on things like nutrition and proper development and workout techniques as part of BEAST’s mission to train the complete player.

“Instead of focusing on how to lift the ball and just hit home runs, we’re teaching these kids how to swing correctly because we want to set them up for long-term success,” Echavarria says.

Team BEAST has expanded into nine travel baseball teams with a travel softball team on the horizon. In addition to individual and group lessons, the organization also offers camps and clinics as well as rental of the facility for use by other teams or for baseball events, such as USA Baseball’s recent tryouts for the national team.

“We want to help identify this region’s rising youth prospects, so we’ll continue to do outreach programs to get kids in our area on the map,” Echavarria says. “Also, anyone can rent our space if we have availability. We don’t care if you play for a different organization. We just want players to get better, and our space is meant to be used.”

Beast Belville NC Baseball Training

Echavarria believes what makes BEAST stand apart from other baseball and softball training facilities is its emphasis on core values, something he says he’s carried with him since his early days with the organization in New York. It was there where he first saw how a team of dedicated coaches, players and parents all took care of and supported each other through life’s challenges both on and off the field, and it’s what now pushes him to do the same in the Wilmington area.

“To me, coaching baseball is about more than hitting or throwing a ball hard, it’s the epitome of what it is to struggle through life,” he says. “You might deal with failure on a daily basis, but what matters is how you cope with it, how you handle being a good teammate and how you handle both the really easy situations and the really hard ones. We want to teach those core values of doing the right thing, standing by our people and making sure we support one another.”

Echavarria is proud of the effort BEAST puts into preparing its older athletes for their transition into collegiate sports.

All the way up to the Showcase Division, Team BEAST players are required to attend regular practices with the understanding that continued development is fundamental to the game.   BEAST also offers a comprehensive college advisory program with a proven track record of 100% success rate in team placement for graduating seniors.

“We talk to each player about where they want to play, what kind of learner they are, how far away from home they want to be and what size school they believe they’d be most successful in,” Echavarria says.   “There are so many different aspects to picking a school, and our goal is to find a four-year home for our players.”

Belville NC Baseball Training BEAST

On the other end of the spectrum, players as young as 8 can try out for a Team BEAST travel team. The facility also offers a BEAST Juniors program, where kids ages 7 to 9 with or without experience can come to learn the fundamentals of baseball or softball in a group setting. The program is designed to work with children from the ground up and includes challenging games to ensure young players have fun while learning to compete in a healthy environment.

Echavarria recognizes that the Cape Fear area is a hotbed for baseball and believes many people are not even aware of how much talent exists in the community.

He invites interested players to reach out for a private evaluation, attend a tryout and just come experience the family atmosphere and shared passion for the sport that lives inside the belly of Team BEAST.

“Our environment is incredibly positive because of the amount of love for the game everyone shares,” Echavarria says. “All our coaches and staff are genuinely excited to work with the youth in this area, and I think all our players, parents and the community feel that excitement too when they walk through our doors.”

Want to step up your skills?
BEAST North Carolina
181 Venture Drive, Belville

Photography by Jessie Heim