Swingers: Baseball buds start new biz

Though the renovation to the 300,000-square-foot Frank Ix building on Elliott Avenue won't be complete for a couple of years, one new business there has already come out swinging.

Total Performance, an athletic training facility that's geared especially toward baseball training, opened February 2, and owners Todd Proctor and Larry Mitchell say they hope their new venture will hit a home run.

Building owner Gabe Silverman says he's "blown out" by what Proctor and Mitchell have done to the Total Performance space.

Three net-covered batting areas, including two pitching machines, occupy one corner of the vast blue room, and two pitching mounds are a ball's throw away.

A full set of gleaming weight machines and a wide array of free weights are on hand, as are several stationary bikes and treadmills. But this is not your ordinary gym.

"We're interested in developing athletes, and not just [offering] baseball instruction," says Proctor, 30, who met Mitchell when both played for Charlottesville High School in the late '80s.

Mitchell, 32, left James Madison University in 1992 to play pro baseball, pitching for the Phillies and then playing double A baseball until his retirement five years ago.

Proctor, who played baseball for Lynchburg College, spent eight years as a personal trainer and assistant manager for Gold's Gym, where he started a summer training program for teens.

Proctor and Mitchell reconnected at Gold's Gym in 2000, and ended up coaches of the CHS baseball team (Mitchell is head coach). It wasn't long, Proctor says, before Mitchell was "gung ho" on the Total Performance plan.

On a recent weekday afternoon, things are hopping at Total Performance. Proctor and Mitchell are each giving one-on-one instruction to elementary school-aged baseball players, and several slightly older athletes are arriving for some after-school training.

"Some guys come in here, and all they want to do is heavy bench presses," says Proctor, explaining how that type of workout can give a body the "light-bulb" effect, with bulked up chest and shoulders and skinny legs. Knowing which muscle groups to target, and how to maximize performance through training are far more important than having a bodybuilder's physique, Proctor says.

Patrick Scharf says two of his three sons come to Total Performance for training. His 14-year-old son, Cameron, is trying out for pitcher on the CHS JV team. Proctor's "positive" style has "raised Cameron's confidence," says Scharf.

"Larry and Todd are great communicators," he says.

For years, Scharf says, his sons attended Dr. Baseball, a baseball training business in the old National Linen building on Market Street owned by Sam Beale.

"Sam's been great for the community," says Scharf. "But it's good to have an alternative in town."

Proctor says he's heard good things about Dr. Baseball, but thinks there's "plenty of business to go around."

And Beale, UVA's pitching coach for a dozen years, agrees. When he founded Dr. Baseball 15 years ago, "there weren't three people in the state of Virginia doing what we were doing," he says.

Now he's seeing 150 kids a week between individual and team coaching sessions.

But you won't catch Beale doing general sports training. "I've got my hands full trying to teach kids the mechanics of baseball," he explains.

Meanwhile, Proctor and Mitchell say they have plans to expand their training program even further. For instance, Lorenzo Rivers, an assistant UVA basketball and softball coach, will soon offer off-season training classes at Total Performance. Providing a change of pace athletically, says Rivers, leaves players "rejuvenated, mentally and physically."

While Mitchell and Proctor are primarily interested in training athletes, they say anyone­ of any skill level­ is welcome. And who knows? You just might end up awakening your inner Mark McGuire!

Larry Mitchell offers batting tips to Will Marsh.