Today, in our series highlighting Team Axe partners, we talk with McClane Ramey and Jared Oliver of Line Drive Academy in Cleveland, Georgia.
The former college teammates train all ages, from youth players to pro athletes, while also running five travel baseball teams, out of their facility located about 90 minutes northeast of Atlanta. We covered a range of topics, including LDA's founding four years ago, how they use Axe Bat Speed Trainers in their player development program, and the impact Driveline Baseball has made on their careers.
Q: How did Line Drive Academy get its start?
Ramey: Me and Jared both grew up in this area and went to Truett McConnell University here in Cleveland (Georgia). We had to work two jobs in college, while also playing college baseball, so that was very challenging. But one of those jobs was giving lessons. I was lucky enough to know the guy who owns the building we're in and he let me rent space to give the lessons, and that turned into a couple other people giving lessons, and eventually I just did the math and decided I was better off running it myself and renting the whole space per month. So that's how Line Drive Academy started in September 2016.
Q: What ages do you work with?
Ramey: When we started, we had a lot of young kids. I have a little brother, so we started with a lot of kids around his age. He's 13 now, so when I was in college, it was 8- , 9- , 10-year-olds. Now, I think our youngest is 6 and our oldest is 24 and in the White Sox organization.
Q: Where do you draw from?
Ramey: There's nothing (no training facilities) north of us, so most of our lessons and older guys come from the North Georgia mountains -- even a little bit into South Carolina because there's nothing up there, either.
Q: When did you start fielding travel teams and how many do you have now?
Ramey: We didn't start adding them until last year. But now we have an 18U, upper class, that plays a lot of PBR (Prep Baseball Report) and Perfect Game stuff, then a 14U, 12U, 9U, and an 8U team.
Q: Where do your teams play?
Ramey: We're lucky enough to be close to the PBR complex in LakePoint (Georgia). We love going there and it's only an hour and a half, so we end up going over there for a lot of tournaments.
Q: How big is the facility and what do you offer there?
Ramey: We have about 7,800 square feet. Right now, we have seven cages. We also have a 24-hour gym that's a part of the facility, and that's really key for our older guys because we run the Driveline (Baseball) program, too, and we make them do all the right lifts before they do that. We also added new turf to the facility about 18 months ago.
Q: What's the mix of training going on at the facility?
Ramey: Pretty much every one of our younger kids -- those under 15 -- come in for an hour and they'll split it up between 30 minutes of hitting and 30 minutes of pitching. Rarely do we have a kid under 15 who wants to give up on one or the other. The older guys, 15-and-up, they are more likely to stick to one thing. A lot of them will come in a couple times a week and do 30 minutes of hitting, then 30 minutes of catching or something else. They also come here and work out in between those sessions.
Q: Who are some of the players who have trained at Line Drive Academy?
Oliver: We have a couple pitchers in the pros -- Reese Olson, who is in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and Spencer Adams, who is in the White Sox organization -- and we have about 13-14 college guys. Our 2022 class is going to be really big. We have a couple arms that have already touched 89 mph. So the near future is looking really bright.
Q: What technology do you use with your players?
Ramey: We use Blast Motion (sensors) with our hitters. We just got a new Pro Radar System, and the Smart Coach Radar, from Pocket Radar.
Oliver: We're working on getting a Rapsodo Pitching Unit in here as well, hopefully soon.
Q: What was your introduction to Axe Bat?
Ramey: When I was in high school, I played for a traveling team and the guy who owned it bought several Axe Bats. That was probably back in 2011. But I fell in love with the handle. We ran through them like crazy because everybody on the team used them, but I just fell in love with the handle. So when I had the opportunity to sign with you guys recently, I did it.
Oliver: I was (a pitcher) in the minor leagues with the Red Sox for a couple years and a bunch of my buddies swung Axe Handles. They loved it and said it was easier to get the bat around -- could have been a feel thing or the way the knob fit, but they just loved it.
Q: How do you use Axe Bats in your player development?
Ramey: Our guys are loving the Speed Trainers and the overload/underload training. We use the booklet that comes with the bats (that includes guided training from Driveline Baseball) and it's been great.
Oliver: We use them in a lot of ways (beyond the programming that comes with the bats). Let's say we have a guy who is struggling to feel where his barrel is, then we'll give him the underload bat to help him feel that. McClane's younger brother, for instance, has a habit of cutting across the ball, and putting a lot of side spin on it, so we'll give him the underload bat to swing. If you rip across the ball with that bat, you can really feel it. You can tell. So we use that with him to force him to stay through the ball.
Q: We partner with Driveline Baseball on the training programs that come with our Speed Trainers. You guys are big believers in Driveline because of your experience with their pitching programs. Can you tell that story?
Oliver: At Truett, we were a small NAIA school, and we had a bunch of guys throwing low-to-mid 80s. We started doing Driveline there and I went from throwing 84-86 mph to topping out at 97 mph my senior year and getting drafted. If you gain 12-13 miles per hour and that doesn't make you a believer in something, you're crazy. Without Driveline, I wouldn't have had the experiences that I've had. Even though I didn't make it to the Big Leagues, my life is what it is because of Driveline.
Ramey: Along with the program, the weight training (for pitchers and hitters) is just as important. We know several facilities that do the weighted ball program and don't lift, so that's why we have the 24-hour gym here for our guys to do it the right way.
Q: You guys are young and still relatively new to travel baseball. How do you see Line Drive Academy growing and evolving?
Oliver: We are fairly new and we're still trying to get the word out there. We haven't played out of this area very much, so the surrounding 8-10 counties, they know us, but if we really want to grow to the level that some of these other places are, we need to get our name out there. That's part of what we're trying to do by implementing some of the newer training methods and technologies and really focusing on player development. Training is hard and if you don't keep guys motivated and let them have fun doing it, they're not going to stick with it very long. So it's way more than just baseball here. We're obviously trying to help our players go as far as they can go, but if they can learn how to work doing this, there's no doubt in my mind they are going to be successful in life.