Hot Corner Athletics relocates to Lockport amid WNY baseball boom

Former Canisius College standout and Niagara baseball assistant coach Ronnie Bernick is moving his Hot Corner Athletics baseball academy to a new location on Lincoln Avenue in Lockport.

LOCKPORT — Hot Corner Athletics just keeps growing. It has gotten so big that it can no longer remain in its current building.

Since founding Hot Corner Baseball Academy in 2016, former Canisius College player and Niagara University assistant coach Ronnie Bernick has gradually expanded the business. In 2018, he added Hot Corner Performance Center and has since rebranded the entire business as Hot Corner Athletics.

Operating in a 4,000-square foot facility in Getzville, more than 250 of its players have played collegiately and 30 have been selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, including Williamsville East graduate and 2021 first-round Miami Marlins pick Joe Mack.

While many businesses struggled to remain open and some shuddered their doors, Hot Corner thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic, producing its best financial year as more than 100 players per day and 2,000 for the year came through the facility.

As the business continued to expand with mostly players from Niagara and Orleans counties, along with those from Amherst and Williamsville, Bernick decided it was time to upgrade and purchased a 17,000-foot facility at 1051 Lincoln Ave. in Lockport to open Nov. 1.

“With the new space it’s giving (kids) a chance to go further. It’s telling them that their dreams are possible,” Bernick said. “Now there is no excuse. We have all the resources available to get you where you want to go. We’re going to provide all the resources and guidance to get you there.”

New space, new dreams

Bernick, a Pittsburgh native, was disillusioned with the limited capacity in which he could aid players as a college coach, as well as the minimal pay, and decided to move into private training. He was alerted of the building in Getzville and received an angel investor to fund the business.

But as Bernick trained players, he noticed they began to peak and skills could not progress any further because they were more advanced than their strength would allow. Bernick then turned to fellow Canisius alum and strength training expert Sam Cumbo to create the performance division of Hot Corner.

“We wanted to create an environment for them to learn about their body and how to take care of their body,” Bernick said. “Sam is one of the best strength coaches in the area and we brought him in to do baseball and softball-specific strength training. In my opinion, he’s the reason our kids are starting to make it in higher levels of college and pro baseball. He’s able to get them to a place physically where we can do something with them.”

The Hot Corner staff is filled with former college baseball players, including Bernick’s brother Nick, who played at Niagara and is the president of the Hot Corner Futures Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization that helps reduce travel baseball fees and equipment costs and will eventually help create college scholarships for kids who need financial assistance.

Mack’s older brother Charlie — a 2018 sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Twins — also works with former Starpoint and Niagara County Community College standout Matt Cross as the hitting coordinators and catching coaches. Both are currently playing professionally.

With a high-level staff in place, Hot Corner also began training athletes outside of baseball and softball and is currently in the process of revving up training for other sports such as football and volleyball.

“Baseball and softball are always going to be our No. 1,” Bernick said, “but the reason we created Hot Corner Athletics and moved away from Hot Corner Baseball Academy was the possibility of doing things in the future. … Our biggest thing is being able to branch off and specializing in each sport. With 95% of our company being baseball and softball-specific, that doesn’t mean you can’t work out with us.”

The current Getzville location features two batting cages and 2,000 feet for the performance center. In Lockport, Hot Corner will have a reception area and a pro shop with baseball equipment and apparel for sale. There will also be a 3,000-square foot fitness center and a 75-foot sprint lane, updated hitting and pitching machines, four batting cages and a 50-by-100-foot infield.

“We have kids that want to come in from out of town, but I have nowhere to put them,” Bernick said. “With this new space, we’re going to be bringing kids in from all over the East Coast to help them with what their goals are.”

Nick Sabato can be reached via email at nick.sabato@gnnewspaper.com and on Twitter @NickSabatoGNN.

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