Seth Brizek, owner of Blue Chip Professional Baseball in Anderson, likes grinders. Not the sandwich, but a hard worker who puts in 100 percent effort, regardless of their talent level.
In his view, those are the kinds of players who will excel at Blue Chip, a baseball training facility that focuses on providing technical instruction and guidance to help players (typically from 7-18 years old) develop and perfect core talents. From Little Leaguers to professional players, their program is comprehensive in nature and strives to touch on every area of development.
And we’re not just talking about pitching and hitting. Blue Chip starts from the ground up, offering instruction from stretching to the windup to the mental preparation required to avoid injury. Brizek, himself a co-captain and shortstop for Clemson’s 1995 ACC Championship team, heads up an impressive group of instructors including former Clemson pitcher P.J. Zocchi, all-time Tigers home-run leader Andy D’Alessio, pitcher and Cleveland Indians draft pick Kevin Brady, Wren and Eastside coach Kyle Freeman, Cincinnati Reds catcher Garrett Boulware (in the off-season), and Dodgers catching coordinator Travis Barbary.
“After I played in the minor leagues, having been in the business and knowing a little bit about it, I thought it would be a good idea to open up a business like this,” Brizek says. “And we’ve been doing it since 2004.”
As for his staff, it’s a mixture of people Brizek reached out to and those who contacted him. “We have high school coaches and teachers who work during the summer because they really like being around the kids and teaching sports,” he says. “The harder they want to work, the more they stick around. It’s kind of hard to find someone who’s willing to grind it out, but Andy D’Alessio has been here for eight years or so. He’s a grinder. He gives good lessons.”
The first step for any player who walks through the door of Blue Chip’s indoor facility is a one-hour skills assessment. “After that, we tell the kid, ‘These are the things you need to work on if you want to get lessons,’” Brizek says. “We can set up a plan to go about getting better at these things.”
But whatever their skill level, they’re not going to get any kind of, ahem, pitch from these instructors. “What I take a lot of pride in is not being a salesman at all,” Brizek says. “I’ve always been very straight up about telling kids what they need to do to get better. Some parents like it, some parents don’t. It’s simple: If they practice, everything’s better. The kids are happier, the parents are happier, I’m happier because then everybody asks, ‘How did little Joey get so much better? Well, he’s going to Blue Chip,’ and then my phone rings.”
Over 18 years (six in Atlanta and 12 in Anderson) Brizek and his staff have helped send players to 10 different major league teams, including the Royals, the Braves, the Pirates and the Rockies, not to mention scores of minor league and college teams. And over that time, they’ve learned what to watch for. “You can tell the kids that want to be here,” he says. “We really take pride in working with kids that want the help, and working with the parents who are into getting their kids better. Work ethic is the biggest thing. There are a lot of kids who make it because they’re grinders. They get after it. You can have a lot of talent, but you have to be a hard worker with the desire to get better.”
For more information, visit bluechipbaseball.net.
More places to train
Blue Chip isn’t the only sports-training facility in the Upstate. Here’s a selection of other training facilities in the area.
STACK Velocity Sports Performance, 100 Powers Blvd., Piedmont
Programs: Track and field, football, baseball.
Premier Softball Hitting/Training Facility, 546 Rutherford Road, Greenville
Basketball Combine Training, 5216 Pelham Road, Greenville
Greenville Cycling & Multi-Sport, 205 Cedar Lane Road, Greenville; 105-A Regency Commons, Greer
Programs: Cycling, running, triathlon.
Acceleration Sports Institute, 200 Patewood Drive Suite C-150, Greenville
Programs: Golf, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, football, tennis, basketball, volleyball
Game On with Vincent Harris