Automated Practice Machines

FungoMan becomes a big a part of Diamond Instincts Baseball Academy in the Chicago area

By GEORGE M. WILCOX gwilcox@pioneerlocal.com

Baseball isn’t played just in the spring and summer anymore.

More and more indoor baseball and softball academies are cropping up across the Chicago area. At the suggestion of Glenbrook South baseball coach Bob Rosinski, junior catcher Cody Libman and a few of his teammates spent the offseason at Diamond Instincts Baseball and Softball Academy in Northbrook.


Co-owners of Diamond Instincts baseball academy, former GBS pitcher Lyndsey Levin and her husband Sam Incandela, opened their Northbrook business in 2008.
(Dan Luedert/Staff Photographer)

About 10 to 15 players in Glenbrook South’s program competed in a six-week hitting league at Diamond Instincts in the weeks leading up to preseason practice. Libman became the league’s first champion, finishing ahead of Titans’ third baseman Pat Guinane and infielder-outfielder P.J. Anderson.

The first three weeks were spent working on the fundamentals by hitting off a batting tee.

“We played nine-inning simulated games taking about five swings per inning,” Libman said. “I found it helpful. It was fun. It was a good opportunities to take more swings.”

Chicago’s dismal weather in late winter wasn’t a factor for players in the league. They could take advantage of Diamond Instincts’ four cages in an industrial park complex off Waukegan Road.

For Libman, it was one of many visits to Diamond Instincts.

My dad (Steve) is good friends with (owner) Sam Incandela,” Libman said. “I have taken hitting lessons. Sam knows a lot about hitting. He really helped my swing when it needed help. He’s a good coach.”

Diamond Instincts will offer summer camps for ages 8-14. Unlike other indoor facilities, Diamond Instincts only uses league baseballs instead of rubber-coated balls and the facility recently purchased a “Fungoman,” an automated pitching machine which can also be used for taking grounders.

The bulk of high school players that use the facility come from Glenbrook North and South and Deerfield. Even pitchers come in to use the facility’s artificial mound in the offseason. One of Diamond Instincts regulars is GBN junior pitcher Alex Hermeling.

The Academy also accommodates members of the Northbrook travel youth baseball league. Incandela has coached travel teams with the Glenview Blaze.

Incandela and his wife, former GBS pitcher Lyndsey Levin, started Diamond Instincts in October 2008. Lindsey Incandela teaches at Pleasant Ridge Elementary in Glenview and has been a pitching instructor for six years.

“We had the vision of what we wanted and found space that would be perfect to keep giving lessons. We found the people to work with hitters and teams,” said Incandela, who started by giving lessons in a batting cage above the gym at Christian Heritage Academy in Northfield.

Diamond Intstincts’ instructional staff features former Resurrection pitcher Sara Somogyi and one-time Lyons pitcher Grant Johnson, who pitched in the College World Series for Notre Dame and was drafted by the Cubs before an arm injury ended his career.

Incandela, a Chicago native, played baseball and graduated from Fenwick before deciding to walk on at Indiana. After playing for the Hoosiers, he served as an assistant coach for Indiana and then went on to join the staff at C.F. Swingtown in Orland Park, which was previously run by former major leaguer and Lockport native Ron Coomer.

Incandela said he tailors his hitting philosophy for individual batters.

“Different drills, different teaching points, and different motivations work with different players,” he said. “Each player is unique, and that is why I do not teach hitting the same way to every player.”

Incandela, who was always told he was too small to play Division I baseball, is taking courses that go beyond physical improvement. Besides mechanical issues, today’s players must deal with mental issues to get better on the field.

“You have to take what you’ve practiced to the field,” Incandela said. “You deal with a lot of perfectionists. A lot of kids feel like they have let down themselves and let down eight other guys on the field and the guys in the dugout.”