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Thursday, December 17,2009

One man's rocky journey chasing down a dream

By Ryan Casey

The idea for an Extra Innings in Longmont literally popped its way into the Newtons’ lives. It was 2 a.m. on a weeknight in the summer of 2008. Leta was working late when a popup ad for the company, advertising franchise opportunities, found its way onto her screen. She forwarded it to Mike, knowing that the concept — a year-round baseball and softball facility in Colorado – was something he’d wanted to do since he graduated from Regis University in Denver in 1991.

Mike and Leta had met at Regis, where he was a baseball player, and she starred in volleyball and softball — she continues to hold a few records to this day. He was set to be an assistant on the baseball team, “but I kind of ruined that,” Leta says with a laugh. “I made him get a real job.” Mike did give private lessons after college, but didn’t get back into coaching until Capper, his oldest son, was born.

“I think that just kind of rekindled everything,” Leta says.

Four years ago, Trevor Platt, the head coach at Silver Creek, was looking for a pitching coach. It was a perfect fit.

And so, it seemed, was the opportunity in front of them in the early morning hours of that summer day in 2008. After years away from the sport, Mike had long wanted to return to baseball. It gave him life, helped to soothe his stress. The chance to fully jump back in, and also the potential as a business opportunity, couldn’t be passed up.

“It was almost like a sign,” Leta says.

“Like, time for a change. He’s been ready for a change for several years, so going back to his roots is going to be good for him.”

Together, they decided to fill out a franchise application, and heard from the corporate office the following morning.

They signed papers for the franchise in late June 2008. By October, the Newtons had found the perfect location, in a former sports warehouse off Atwood Street and Ninth Avenue in Longmont. It wasn’t all smooth, though. The builder working with the landlord was supposed to have everything done by January of this year. That didn’t happen. Then, just as the Newtons were trying to secure funding, the market collapsed.

“There were a lot of loops we had to go through, and just the frustration of having to wait,” Leta says. “We really wanted to open a year ago.”

Finally, a loan secured, things moved forward again. But construction still couldn’t be completed until this past April. It turned into a busy month for the Newtons. Around the time Mike found out about his melanoma, Leta learned she was pregnant with their fourth child.

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