Prime Time Sports: Bringing Baseball Big Leagues to Leland
Living the life of baseball and sharing its excitement with other serious players is what Chris Coughlin and Lydia Chandler do best. They are the proud new owners of Prime Time Sports, a 14,000-square-foot indoor baseball and softball instruction and training facility in Leland. Both have their own special connection with the sport and a strong desire to support the local community through baseball.
Chris Coughlin grew up in Oak Island and started playing baseball
at age 7 at the encouragement of his mother.
“I played in Little League and found out that I was good at it,” says Coughlin, “so I decided to continue with it.”
“Good at it” is an understatement. Sincere dedication to the sport and lots of hard work paid off. He went on to play for South Brunswick High School. While there, he earned MVP in his junior and senior years, made All Conference three years in a row and was Brunswick County Player of the Year as a senior. Chris also played in the 1998 State Games for the North Carolina Baseball Association; athletes have to be recommended by a coach and then try out for the team. Proving to be an all-around athlete, he also competed in soccer and football.
After graduation, he attended UNCW, where he played baseball for two years before having Tommy-John surgery — a surgery where an elbow ligament is replaced with a tendon from another part of the body. Being an earnest player, Coughlin didn’t let this stop him. He sat out for a year to rehabilitate and continued to play for two more years until graduating in 2003.
Upon graduation, he signed on as a free agent pitcher with the Kansas City Royals. He played Rookie Ball his first year with the organization and then joined the Kansas City Minor League team in Phoenix, Arizona. There, his team won the championship game after playing 16 innings.
After an extended spring training to acquire more innings under his belt, he played in Burlington, Iowa (the Royal’s Low Single A Team). Pitching the first-ever nine inning perfect game for the team won him an award, which he received at the Kansas City Royal’s Kauffman Stadium before the game’s opening pitch.
When asked where he keeps all his awards, Coughlin humbly says, “My mom keeps them in my old room.”
Coughlin continued to play one more year for the Royals in High A ball in Victorville, California, before having to step down because of shoulder injuries affecting his throwing intensity.
“I had to make a call and tell them I wouldn’t be coming back,” says Coughlin.
Even though he can no longer pitch at 91-94 miles per hour, he can still throw a mean ball.
“I throw about 88 mph now,” he says.
Chandler tells her own story of how baseball had a profound effect on her. To her, it’s all about family. She recalls watching the sport with her brother and father and going to her brother’s games.
“I have always loved baseball,” she says, “and I remember when growing up, we got to stay up late sometimes and watch the games in front of the TV. Baseball is really a family sport.”
Coming from a long line of Wilmington natives, Chandler attributes her sense of dedication to the community to her family.
“My family has a long history of involvement in the community, and they are big supporters of education,” she says.
Her grandparents, Sibyl and WJ McLamb, even have a building dedicated to them at Brunswick Community College.
Coughlin and Chandler’s commitment to providing top-notch training to every age group from 5 years old and up is evident in how they run Prime Time Sports and the professional staff they hire.
For example, Daniel and Courtney Rabon, coaches for Prime Time Sports, also have expertise in the field of baseball and long-standing ties to the local community. Daniel, (son of Gary Rabon, secretary of the Leland Hot Stove League, a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes the game of baseball) was a pitcher for both South Brunswick High School and North Brunswick High School, as well as a pitcher at Southeastern Community College and St. Andrew’s College. He went on to be the associate head coach and recruitment coordinator for Southeastern, the Wilmington Sharks and Brunswick Community College. Courtney coaches softball and holds nine records at William Peace University.
Tony Gallucci is the program director at the facility. Originally from New York, he is a softball pro and professional baseball/softball coach with more than ten years of coaching experience. Some of his experience includes baseball and softball fundamental coaching, self-esteem and trust building and teaching proven coaching theories.
Prime Time Sports offers a complete arena to those who want to improve their game. Individual instruction is offered in every aspect of baseball and softball, or one can use the facility to independently train. The complex is divided into several sections to provide the best workout possible. Two simulated pitching machines (one for softball and one for baseball) encompass one section. The machines project an image of a MLB player throwing just about any type of pitch.
Another section provides an Iron Mike Machine (a repeating pitching machine). A pitching lane with a radar gun is also available. Other areas include: a portable pitching mound with a 50’ x 70’ turf field good for agility drills, batting practice, conditioning training and whiffle ball games; a back room for soft toss with an L-screen; a warm-up area with batting tees; and, finally, a comfortable waiting area for family members to relax with TV, magazines and coffee.
It is Coughlin’s goal to also include a workout area with light weights, bands and a squat rack. He is giving the facility baseball-themed details, such as a bench that resembles a dugout.
In addition to offering intense baseball and softball preparation, Prime Time Sports manages teams throughout the year and has children’s summer camps, birthday parties and parents’ night out events.
Coughlin’s dream is that Prime Time Sports will improve everyone’s game, whether it is an adult looking to develop a better swing, a high school or college student eager to hone their skills, or a youngster starting out and wanting to learn the ropes. He also hopes that with facilities like his available for players to train, more scouts will look for recruitment locally.
For Coughlin and Chandler, it is important for them to pass on the love of baseball to others.
“I’m a people person,” says Chandler, “and I like getting to know the people who come in. I enjoy getting to know the parents and their children and seeing them improve in the sport. Nothing is more satisfying than when someone like a parent comes to you and says ‘My kid hit the ball in the game last night!’”