CENTREVILLE - Former Baltimore Orioles first-round pick Larry Bigbie cut the ribbon Saturday, Dec. 8, to mark the grand opening of his new sports performance center that will give local baseball and softball players a place to practice in Queen Anne's County.
County Commissioner Bob Simmons and Centreville Town Council Vice President George "Smokey" Sigler were both present at Bigbie's Shore Performance to take part in the ceremony.
"I think it went very well," said Bigbie, who moved to the Centreville area in March. "You never know what to expect turn out wise and all that when you're doing something like that. I really didn't advertise a whole lot. I'm happy with the people that came out and supported me (and) the town of Centreville has been great. Overall, it was a pretty big success."
Bigbie looked in the Annapolis area and on Kent Island for a site to establish the performance center but ultimately chose to install his business in Centreville. Aided by Chesapeake Real Estate Associates' Samantha Grimes, Bigbie set up shop in a warehouse along the Corsica River off of Chesterfield Avenue. The facility comes as a relief to many parents on the Eastern Shore who had to drive their children either across the Bay Bridge or into Delaware to practice baseball or softball but now only have to travel to Centreville for a similar experience.
"I'm just excited that there is something here, locally, rather than having to drive across the bridge," said Bobbie Jo Trossbach, who lives in Ridgley but has had to drive her 10-year-old daughter Maddie Tisher across the Bay Bridge to Anne Arundel County for softball practice. "I'm excited that there's something here for the kids because that's ultimately who it is benefiting."
Around 50 people attended the opening celebration, many of them making good use of the facility's baseball- and softball-related resources. Bigbie's features three batting cages for players to hone their hitting skills, improve their pitching prowess and develop better catching techniques. Private lessons are available and full facility renting is also an option.
The performance center also provides instruction from Bigbie himself, who was drafted 21st overall by the Orioles in 1999 before playing six seasons as an outfielder in the major leagues. He finished his career with a .268 batting average, 31 homeruns and 322 hits in 375 games for the O's, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.
"I went to college to be a P.E. teacher (and) that was the whole master plan before baseball took me down that path," Bigbie said. "I wanted to get back into coaching (and) get back to what I love to do. Next best thing is to take everything I learned and pass it along."
Currently, Bigbie is the only full-time instructor at the facility, but he has recruited the help of Johnny Poss, the baseball coach at St. Mary's High School in Annapolis and is actively searching for more baseball and softball teachers. Bigbie has been working with players since the performance center opened in November.
"This is my second time here," said Alli Cherry, 10, of Grasonville, who, along with Tisher, plays softball for the Shore Attitude travel team comprised of players from Queen Anne's, Caroline, Talbot and Kent counties. "It's pretty cool because you get to be taught by a major leaguer."
Sigler pointed to the impact that Bigbie's will have on the community.
"With the growth in the sports fields in and around Centreville, there are so many teams that are starting to come to the Centreville area and once they're done playing there is not a whole lot for them to do," Sigler said. "If they're in Centreville, (Bigbie's) is here, and then they are most likely to come here and do some pre-game, post-game warm-ups after action, those kinds of things.
"In that regards, it's good (because) it brings them into Centreville, keeps them in Centreville and from an economic standpoint that's a blessing," added Sigler. "(Bigbie's) gives them something to do and it brings dollars into Centreville."
The facility is expected to help young people on the Eastern Shore become more interested in baseball and softball while improving the skills of those already playing.
"In my opinion, it's the first real quality facility that's coming in," said Bruce Quade, president of the Chesapeake Vipers baseball association, an Eastern Shore travel baseball program dedicated to teaching county kids the "fundamentals, attitude and work ethic" expected of young baseball players. "It's just a great opportunity for the town, county and the Eastern Shore in general."
Sigler, who presented Bigbie with a plaque on behalf of Centreville, agreed.
"We're real happy with the facility here and we hope (Bigbie) has a big success of it, and I can't help but think he's going to," said Sigler, before rolling up his sleeves and entering the batting cage to tempt the radar gun with a few pitches. "Just look around at the number of people here and it hasn't even been advertised. Once he gets it advertised and gets his batting machines up and running it's going to be a beacon."
"I wanted to do something that I knew," Bigbie said. "Obviously baseball is that, and to do that in Centreville, close to home, is kind of a bonus."