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Thursday, December 17,2009

One man's rocky journey chasing down a dream

By Ryan Casey

Behind Mike, the front door to Extra Innings swings open. It’s a deliveryman, arms full of boxes.

“You can always tell which ones are the bats,” he says, nodding toward the longest of the bunch as he signs for the packages.

It’s the day before Extra Innings’ grand opening, and the to-do list is whittling down. The pro shop is now fully stocked, all eight batting cages are ready for use, but Mike is on his way out to pick up signs he ordered. It’s almost as if they’re the final hurdle. After all the delays, all the tests, all the surgeries, after 18 years of dreaming, the facility is set to open.

“It was just one thing after another,” says Leta, now the proud mom of fourweek-old Colt, “and [the opening] was kind of just like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The new business now stands as a monument of sorts to everything the Newtons have overcome in 2009. Mike remembers a time between his surgeries when he walked into the facility while it was still being built and only had a few interior walls standing. No nets, no fences. Just walls.

“I finally had a chance to get it going,” he says. “I don’t want to use the word, ‘cheated,’ but it was almost like, ‘OK. What other road block are we going to run into next?’ “I was just in here, walking around,” he adds, glancing about the facility, “and I was just like, ‘This is going to get done.’” Extra Innings had been a project, but, like Leta’s pregnancy, it was also a focal point, an outlet, an escape. And scrapping those plans had never even been an option.

“No,” Leta says, quickly, decisively.

“Never. No. We never even discussed it.”

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