From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
Eisenhower Ave. is home to a growing network of unique and successful businesses. One of those is Prime Time Baseball, Northern Virginia’s premier youth baseball academy. We took some time to talk with John Skaggs, baseball coach, special education teacher, and Director of Player Development for Prime Time.
AEDP: So, can you tell us about Prime Time Baseball?
John: Chris Berset and I started this business about 7 years ago, in late 2013. We actually started in Vienna, VA as a baseball academy. For people that don’t know, a baseball academy is basically a training facility where we coach players on all aspects of the game, either in one-on-one or group lessons. We were also hired to coach entire teams of players.
When we first started, we did lessons for the youth in Northern Virginia. One of our clients – a family from Alexandria – approached us and asked if we were interested in coaching a traveling team. We decided to move our business from Vienna to Alexandria based on the desire to coach this traveling team. We started with one traveling baseball team and now we are up to 14 teams, ranging in ages from 8 to 18 years old. You can see we have really evolved and grown over the years based on our reputation and word of mouth.
We have traveled with these teams all over the United States and have taken 3 teams to international competitions – Japan, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland.
I work at Prime Time Baseball in addition to my fulltime job as a high school special education teacher. Both Chris and I are retired professional baseball players but I ended my career before he did and now Prime Time Baseball is his fulltime job.
AEDP: Would you share a fun fact with us? About you, about the business…
John: Chris and I have an interesting story about how our paths crossed. Chris was born and raised in Vienna, VA but played baseball at the University of Michigan. I am actually from Michigan but moved to Alexandria because I used to play for the Alexandria Aces (which was the inspiration for the name of our traveling team – The Prime Time Aces). So a Northern Virginia boy moves to Michigan and a Michigan boy moves to Northern Virginia and here we are in business together almost 8 years after meeting.
Chris and I take a lot of pride in our business. We do a lot of sponsorships with the little league teams in the region – Alexandria Little League, Pioneer Little League. We also do free clinics and camps, all part of the effort to build youth baseball in this area. It is important to see baseball strengthen in the area because while it is good for our business, it is also something we hope Alexandria can be proud of.
AEDP: What’s the most rewarding thing about running Prime Time?
John: Fall 2019 is the first season we saw our players commit to play college baseball, and these players started with us when they were 9 or 10 years old. The first kid to commit is an Alexandria kid named Shane Tucker. He is a student at T.C. Williams and has received a scholarship to go play baseball up in Long Island, NY. We also have three other players recently commit after spending several years with us. That is what is rewarding for us – getting kids to next level. They start by making the little league team, then the travel team, followed by the high school JV and varsity teams and now it is making the college team. Our hope is that the kids that are going to play college baseball will sign professional contracts one day.
AEDP: Do you have a big project or goal you’re working on now?
John: We opened in Alexandria in 2014 right by the Van Dorn Metro with a 4,000 SF facility. We were in this location for 4 years and in July 2019 we moved just one parking lot over to a 7,500 SF indoor space. By moving spaces, we were able to add a weight room. This weight room addition was a huge benefit for us because we have kids that have been with us since they were 9 years old and now they are in high school and starting to think about college baseball. We are able to offer them a one-stop shop in order to hone their skills and get strong enough for the next step in their athletic careers. We also partner with another local Alexandria business in order to bring in personal trainers to work with our players. We are very community based and are trying to drive awareness of Alexandria and our facility as a one-stop-shop place for baseball players.
AEDP: Finally, our favorite question: why Alexandria?
John: Like we talked about in the beginning, it was a combination of need and want. We toyed with the idea of how to make it work but I have to say that the whole process was very smooth since the City of Alexandria was so accommodating. When starting the business here, we never felt like they were making us jump through hoops and we had people in City Hall directing us during every step of the process.
You have to imagine Chris and I in our mid-20s, never having owned a business before and scared to death by the process – having the city support was amazing. We have gotten amazing support from the people of Alexandria; they trusted in us and we were able to trust in them that this business would succeed. Truthfully, it would be cheaper to locate our facility in a place like Manassas or Loudoun County but the support from the people in Alexandria tells us we made the right decision by locating here.
To learn more about Prime Time Baseball, stop by their facility at 5380 Eisenhower Ave. or visit their website.