Local pro athletes join forces to build a sports training facility
The career paths of former athletes Jon Macalutas and Tyler Newton are so similar, it seemed natural they would find much in common when introduced by a mutual friend. Both became professionals despite lacking the big-name fanfare that follows some prospects out of college, and while both managed to play at impressively high levels, ultimately neither reached the pinnacle of their respective sports.
It also seemed natural for Macalutas and Newton to become business partners. The two shared a desire to apply what they had learned in professional sports to the world outside. After bouncing propositions back and forth, they have now fully invested their time and money into transforming a cavernous, 23,000-square-foot warehouse in north Chico into the new home of Mac’s Pro Baseball and TNT Athletic Performance. They say they hope it will be a dynamic training facility for all sports.
Upon completion, the facility will feature multiple batting cages, an artificial field covered with NFL-quality turf, a full basketball court and a weight-training area.
“I looked at a lot of different buildings, and it was perfect for what I had envisioned,” said Newton, who stands at a lean 6 feet 11 inches. “I’ve wanted to do this for years, but never had the time—I was overseas playing basketball.”
Newton, 29, is fresh off a career that saw him on the doorstep of the NBA several times. His college years were highlighted by two trips to the 64-team NCAA Tournament in 2004 and 2005 with the University of the Pacific Tigers out of Stockton. After college, he played professionally for the Hervey Bay Hurricanes in Australia, the Allianz Swans Gmunden in Austria, the JDA Dijon Bourgogne in France and the Rera Kamuy Hokkaido in Japan. Despite his success, he always found himself just short of his dream.
“I played at the top levels of each country I played in and had a lot of NBA looks, had a few workouts for them, but I was just never quite there,” Newton said. “I tore my Achilles tendon about five months ago. I feel like I could still rehab and go play, but I knew it was time to make a transition in my life and challenge myself with something else. As an athlete, your window for making money is not open very long.”
He now hopes that through his training center, his experiences will allow him to provide athletes the valuable guidance he was lacking early in his career. In addition to strength and conditioning programs and sports-specific instruction, TNT will offer in-house counseling to parents and students with an eye on college competition and professional recruitment. Newton will put together player résumés, including game video, workout video and other information regarding the player’s training regimen to be presented as a package to scouts and college coaches.
“I was one of the first people in my family to graduate college, so I never had anybody to look to in the recruiting process,” Newton said. “If I’m not a big-name person, how do I get out there? I’ve been from high school to junior college to university to professional, so I know the avenues to take.”
Macalutas, 37, has already been tutoring aspiring hitters at his baseball school’s former location off Highway 32 for 10 years. The school has long been a baseball oasis in a town otherwise deprived of places to take serious batting practice in the off-season.
Aside from being a hitting coach with a decade of experience, he has excellent credentials. A record-setting college tenure with the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustangs, five seasons of minor-league baseball in the Milwaukee Brewers system, two seasons with the now-defunct Chico Heat and a stint as hitting coach for the Chico Outlaws indicate he is no stranger to the physical and mental challenges of the game. Over his seven professional seasons, Macalutas maintained a .290 batting average, hit 58 home runs and stole 116 bases.
“My skill set is being able to instruct a kid playing tee-ball as well as someone playing pro ball and everything in between,” he said. “Of course there are people who played at a higher level and might be more knowledgeable, but having played it and being able to teach it at all different levels is unique.”
Macalutas peaked at the Double-A level, where he was increasingly discouraged by the lack of money invested in him and seeing younger players advance quickly through the system.
“I had to come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t going to play in the Big Leagues, and that was OK,” he said. “I felt like I could have played there, but I just didn’t make it. I had a pretty good career and learned everything I possibly could from the people I met. So, now it’s about passing what I’ve learned on and making a living the right way.”
With the help of a few friends, Macalutas and Newton have been working overtime to overhaul the warehouse, which was previously occupied by Chico Drywall and Stucco Supply.
“We’ve been working on a 25-year-old building that has never seen improvements since it was built,” Newton said. “So we’ve been working long hours putting in these walls, pouring concrete and painting. With no exaggeration, we’ve been working seven days a week for about 15 hours a day. I think we took a break on Thanksgiving afternoon.”
For Macalutas, the new location represents an opportunity to upgrade and expand his business. For Newton, this is building a business from the ground up under the watchful eye of someone who was in his place a decade ago.
“I’d like to think he is learning from my mistakes and what I’ve done right,” Macalutas said. “It’s really exciting to see him start from scratch. More than anything, I’m excited to be a part of a team again.”