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Athlete turns passion into profession with sports facility

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Chad Crawford's life has always been about athletics.

The Clayton County native played baseball, football and wrestled at Lovejoy High School and played football for a year at West Georgia College before injuries brought his career to a close.

Since that time, he's kept his hand in the sports realm for the past eight years by coaching a host of youth baseball and softball teams, including the 10-and-under Georgia Impact, which in 2007 finished their season as the Amateur Softball Association of America's No. 3 team in its age division.

Given Crawford's passion for athletics, it stands to reason he'd also make it his profession.

With partners Clete Cordero and Hunter Hall, Crawford in early May opened Game Time Sports Club, which -- among other services -- offers baseball and softball instruction from a former Major Leaguer and a former college player and coach.

"This is something I've wanted my whole life," said Crawford, who for 15 years has helped a similar enterprise -- Elite Sports -- in McDonough. "Clete and I coached baseball together and about a year and a half ago we started talking about doing something like this."

The 40,000-square-foot facility is located in Covington off Ga. Highway 142 near Wal-Mart and touts itself as a "four-in-one" locality for fun and education, all in the name of kinetic activity.

Besides the baseball and softball operation, Game Time has space reserved for jumpy inflatables, as well as a room for banquets and parties. Another part of the building is used by United Cheerleading, which Crawford said has doubled in terms of participation since May 1 tryouts.

And finally, there's a spot carved out for Crown Realty's Jimmy Birdsong, who operates a personal training/boot camp endeavor, complete with a full weight room.

"There hasn't ever been anything like this in the east metro area," Crawford said of Game Time, which held a grand opening celebration May 8. "I've worked with the people at Elite in McDonough and they specialize in baseball and softball instruction. We have a four-in-one multi-use facility, and there's never been something like this here at all. It's probably the second- or third-largest facility of its kind in all of Atlanta."

As a former player and coach, Crawford -- who serves as Game Time's general manager, overseeing the day-to-day operations -- is most enthused about the baseball and softball instruction.

Baseball training is provided by Luke Allen, who in 1996 signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Newton High School and spent the next dozen years in professional baseball, playing for minor league teams that were affiliates of the Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox. He also played in eight Major League games in 2002 and 2003.

Softball instruction is provided by Felicia Coursey Lowe, who played at Rockdale County High School and played and coached at Georgia Tech, and Christine Baugh, who pitched at Rockdale County High School and Gordon College.

Game Time also features six batting cages and four pitching lanes and has retractable netting to allow for infield practice.

Crawford said that despite the fact that the spring and summer months are generally a dead time for indoor facilities, "Business has been fantastic."

"We've already got 60 to 65 kids working with our three coaches, we've had a banquet every day this week and we've got two parties next Saturday," Crawford, who added he's also renting the facility to a pro wrestling company for an upcoming event.

"I've been taken aback by how busy we've been. It shows how much Covington needed a place like this. I knew there was a demand here, but I didn't think it would be this early."

Crawford added that Game Time is hosting a softball camp Monday through Wednesday for girls ages 6 to 14 that will feature two days of indoor training and a day's worth of scrimmaging at Turner Lake Park. In late May, more than 40 players had already signed up.

Future plans include offering a Mother's Day Out program this summer and the development of an after-school program that would include both a homework component and a fitness program. Game Time presently has five part-time employees and Crawford said the facility would probably top out at 10 workers.

Game Time Sports Club is located a 9120 Wheat St. in Covington and can be contacted by calling 770-385-7288. For more information, visit www.gtcovington.com.