BY HARRISON CONNERY
OXFORD—An all-star lineup of baseball and softball talent has gathered at Rob Dibble’s Smash Factory.
Dibble, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who earned two All-Star nominations and won the 1990 World Series with the Cincinnati Reds, opened the facility Dec. 16 with co-owner Jerry Attanasio, a Waterbury attorney who played college football at Fordham University.
“We want these kids to be the best. I want these high schools around here to be the best, the junior highs, the travel teams, all these kids,” Dibble said. “I want this to be their second home. I didn’t have a place like this, I used to ride my bike in Southington all the way to Wolcott to use the batting cages.”
Former Raybestos Brakettes and National Softball Hall of Fame member Barbara Reinalda and former Yale Bulldog shortstop Meg Ryan are the softball instructors at Smash Factory.
Ryan Plourde, a former outfielder at Fairfield University signed by the Chicago White Sox organization in 2014, joins Dibble and Attanasio on the baseball side. Attanasio is also the strength and conditioning coach for Pomperaug football.
Reinalda posted a career 441-31 record, including 19 perfect games and 31 no-hitters. She posted a 0.38 earned run average in her final season in 1994.
The 6,000-square-foot training facility at 6 Pheasant Run Road features six large indoor batting cage bays which can be combined to provide a larger area for team and fielding exercises. The instructors provide a variety of hitting and fielding programs for individual players and teams. In addition to the instructors’ expertise, Smash Factory has HitTrax and Coach’s Eye software that brings advanced analytics to player evaluations.
HitTrax can measure a hitter’s bat speed, launch angle, exit velocity and distance. For pitchers and catchers it can measure arm strength, pitch velocity and horizontal and vertical break. Coach’s Eye allows slow motion video review.
“I can break a kid down frame by frame by frame,” Dibble said. “For me, it shows kids where they need to be. We can show them, listen, your bat speed is at 40, we’ve got to get you to 45 or 50, and they can see what’s going on there, and then we can send their parents the information.”
HitTrax can also simulate games.
Smash Factory has a pro-shop featuring products from Tater Bats, a local bat manufacturer whose products are used by MLB players including Pittsburgh Pirates Outfielder Starling Marte.
Monthly memberships can be purchased from $25 to $75. A $75-a-month membership comes with two free HitTrax sessions and an evaluation by Dibble.
Attanasio and Dibble met by virtue of living near each other in Middlebury. Dibble’s wife, Jonna Dibble, and Attansio’s wife, Jennifer Attanasio, are listed as co-owners and will help run the business.
“The biggest thing is bringing fun back to baseball,” Dibble said.