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Where have you gone,02/06/2003 9:52 PM ET
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- During his eight-season Major League career, Greg McMichael envisioned the day he could no longer successfully throw a baseball.
He may not have thought he would begin this extensive venture of enriching the lives of young athletes at this stage of his life. But you'll never hear McMichael complain about the rotator cuff injury that prematurely cut his career short in 2000.
McMichael, who played in the Majors from 1993-2000 with the Braves, Mets, Dodgers and A's, now finds himself running Hardball Warehouse, a company that he owns just north of Atlanta along with his brother-in-law Bobby Holley, and former teammates, Mark Lemke and Terry Pendleton.
Obviously with so much baseball talent involved in this venture, it's easy to understand that the company began as a small venture that specialized in instructing baseball skills to kids of all ages. But McMichael's ambitions have led him to expand into what may someday become one of the country's most impressive sports instructional facilities.
"I've thought about doing something like this for a long time," McMichael said. "It would keep me up at nights sometimes. That's good and bad. But it definitely keeps you focused on your ideas."
McMichael's mind seems to be moving at the speed of a Randy Johnson fastball these days. He has recently moved the company into a new building that includes state-of-the-art equipment for the many baseball, softball, lacrosse and football players who frequent the facility. There are even plans now to begin providing instruction via the Internet.
"Kids are doing more and more these days," McMichael said. "We want to provide as many different activities and opportunities as possible."
McMichael's mindset of ensuring that kids learn the value of perseverance through sports comes from some of the struggles he has endured. When he was in eighth grade, doctors told him that a rare cartilage disease would prevent him from ever playing sports again.
"We know the value of team sports for kids," McMichael said. "They learn discipline, build confidence and feel better about themselves. Those life lessons can carry on throughout life and help them in many different ways."
McMichael didn't let the doctor's prognosis prevent him from having a successful career at the University of Tennessee and then bursting onto the Major League scene and finishing second behind Mike Piazza in balloting for the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year.
McMichael was given the closer's role midway through that season, during which he saved 19 games and posted a 2.06 ERA. His accomplishments helped the Braves produce a dramatic second-half run and win the NL West on the season's final day.
His office contains a framed picture of him walking off the mound after recording his 19th save, which gave the Braves their decisive 104th win that memorable season.
"Things really went well that year," McMichael said. "That was really a great season for myself and the team."
McMichael would play in the World Series with the Braves in 1995 and '96 before being traded to the Mets for a young pitching prospect named Paul Byrd. He enjoyed playing in New York in 1997 and most of 1998 (minus a month-long stint in '98 with the Dodgers in between two separate trades between the Mets and Dodgers).
"It was a great experience living in New York and playing for the Mets," McMichael said. "They are a class organization and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to play with some great guys like John Olerud, Todd Hundley, Carlos Baerga and Fonzie (Edgardo Alfonzo)."
The Mets would trade McMichael to the A's during the 1999 season and he would then have the opportunity to appear in 16 more games with the Braves in 2000 before suffering his second rotator cuff injury in less than a year. That proved to be the end of his playing career.
Almost immediately after being forced into retirement, McMichael began his latest venture. He plans to also incorporate other sports like soccer into his enterprise in the near future.
Hardball Warehouse, whose mission is to "motivate young athletes to perform with excellence through clear, logical and profound instruction," has formed a partnership with Competitive Edge Sports, a fitness company that trains athletes to increase their speed, agility and strength.
CES's state of the art fitness equipment and world-class trainers, who have trained such athletes as Pro Bowl football players Brian Urlacher and Keith Brooking, are located in the same building as Hardball Warehouse.
McMichael and his partners will hold a grand opening of their facility on Saturday, during which Tom Glavine will provide instruction and Urlacher will be among the many celebrity athletes available for autographs. The event is open to the public and admission is free.
McMichael's career may have been cut short by injuries. But it's obvious that he is committed to ensuring many young athletes have the opportunity to prosper from the lessons and experiences he gained throughout his career.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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