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Catonsville indoor baseball facility heats up in winter

Finding the Professional Baseball Training building in Catonsville might be harder than hitting an inside-the-park home run, but once you are inside the former pool hall, you are surrounded by baseball instruction.

Brian Bent, who played four years of varsity baseball at Mount St. Joseph, opened the facility at 6541 Baltimore National Pike in November and the place has been drawing players from 8 to over 35 eager to learn from professionals.

Bent, an Arbutus resident, who grew up in Catonsville, was a catcher for three years in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system after he was drafted in the 44th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball draft.

He is sole proprietor of the company.

The idea came during the offseason when he played for the Single-A Aberdeen Ironbirds in 2007 and 2008.

He jotted some ideas on a napkin and held the first lessons in a 70-by-24-foot garage in Mount Airy.

From there, he and senior partner Paul Winterling moved to TZ Sports in Eldersburg, before moving into the former VIP Billiards pool hall in November.

"I just wanted to start doing training and it kept snowballing and it got bigger," Bent said.

The 6,000-square-foot building with the red awning sits behind Midas Muffler and Baltimore Martial Arts and Fitness, so it's hard to see off of Route 40.

But the four jerseys hanging inside remind baseball prospects that Bent meant business as a player, and he has continued that approach as an instructor.

Included is a jersey from the 2003 Crown All-Star Game, which he made after a strong senior season at St. Joe.

His Mount St. Joe and Aberdeen Ironbirds jerseys are there, along with the Orioles' No. 10 jersey which he wore when he was invited to Baltimore's spring training in 2007.

Bent didn't keep the jersey, but he found it online and purchased it for his own collection.

"I had to buy my own jersey," he quipped.

That number is now worn by Adam Jones, who was traded to the Orioles from Seattle in 2008.

In the offseason, New York Mets farmhand Adam Kolarek helped Bent out as an instructor.

Kolarek, a 2005 Catonsville High graduate, was invited to New York Mets' major league camp this spring after five successful seasons in the minor leagues.

He was selected in the 11th round of the major league draft and posted a 1.71 earned run average for Double-A Bighamton.

"The hardest part is trying to keep instructors around," said Bent, who noted Chris Grimer, Jeff Poff and Chorye Spoone, a former Orioles farm system player now in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, have helped as instructors.

Bent's busiest times are summer and winter when school teams are off the diamond.

He offers various hitting, fielding and pitching camps each week in the summer and high school players from Catonsville and Mount St. Joseph have taken advantage of the facility this winter.

While the cold, messy weather has been awful for baseball teams trying to get offseason workouts, Bent has welcomed their attendance in his building that has four retractable batting cages, four pitching mounds and four pitching targets.

"Snowstorms and rain gets the teams in there," said Bent, noting the place was busy every weekend from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. "They rent it, or they can use us as instructors. This past year was probably the busiest year I've ever had."

In addition to teams renting the facility, he also provides private instruction (one player) and semi-private instruction (two players).

"The biggest complaint I get is when they get a half-hour lesson and they want to change it to an hour lesson," he said. "You see so many kids that come out and they want to play and that is great because time flies."

Bent adopted the motto" "Learn from a pro. Train like a pro. Play like a pro."

In addition to learning  fundamentals, players get a physical workout that includes a medicine ball and will eventually include a circuit training room.

"It's more of a workout than a training session," said Bent, who enjoys hitting long drives with his golf clubs in his spare time. He has qualified the past two years for the Re/Max World Long Drive Championships in Las Vegas.

But baseball is his primary passion.

"I like doing private lessons one-on-one," Bent said. "Catching is my expertise, but I'm just as good a pitching instructor because I've worked with pitchers and pitching instructors day in and day out."

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