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Playing new position in career's middle innings

Rochester Business Journal
March 21, 2014

Five years ago, as baseball’s professional players were packing their bags for spring training, Matthew Dryer was teaching youngsters to hit in the Rochester area.

Dryer, then 28 years old, was coming off a 2008 season in which he hit .246 with 18 home runs and 58 runs batted in for York, Pa., of the Atlantic League, an independent organization not affiliated with Major League Baseball.

He was a senior citizen by minor league standards and also was recovering from a torn shoulder labrum. Dryer’s last season with a major league organization was 2006, when he hit .217 with two homers and seven RBIs in 20 games with the Class AA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals in Springfield, Mo.

He was released by the Cardinals at the end of the season, after which he caught on with the York team for two years.

“The fall of 2008 was ‘What am I going to do?’” Dryer recalls thinking. “What’s plan B?

“I started giving private lessons here and there, and 10 turned into 20 and 20 turned into 100 and 100 turned into 200. My dad, who never says anything, said, ‘You might want to think about pursuing this.’”

Dryer, 34, is a central California native whose family moved to Rochester when he was 11. He graduated from McQuaid Jesuit High School and played first and third base at the University of Miami, helping the Hurricanes win the NCAA College World Series in 2001.

Teaching the sport he once played has given Dryer a fresh start.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he says of the pro game. “It’s what we’ve wanted to do since we were kids. But it burns you out. I was right at that point. To be around these kids lit the spark of what baseball is really about for me.”

Dryer launched Diamond Pro Baseball Inc. last August and is its owner and CEO.

He opened a training facility in November at 160 Despatch Drive in East Rochester after spending $30,000 to renovate the leased space. He employs 10 people, most of them part-timers.

Diamond Pro offers private lessons in hitting and fielding and sponsors five travel teams with a total of 70 players. Coaching clinics are in the works.

It conducts 100 private lessons each week. The business also has group lessons for hitting, fielding and catching, with 10 to 20 participants in each group.

“There are thousands of kids coming through the doors each week,” Dryer says. “Our email list is well over 7,000 kids.”

Six of the 10 instructors play professional baseball. They include shortstop Chris “Cito” Culver, an Irondequoit High School graduate and first-round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 2010.

Others include second baseman Chris Bostick, an Aquinas Institute alumnus drafted by the Oakland A’s in 2011, and Trey Pazcazi of East Rochester High School, a Toronto Blue Jays pick in 2012.

Sixty percent of those who study under Dryer and his staff go on to play college baseball, he says.

“The best part about this is when the parents tell me they’re more confident, they’re better in school, they’re becoming more of a leader with their peers,” Dryer says. “It’s amazing how many times that discussion happens. When that started, that’s when I knew we were onto something pretty big, something that’s not going to go away.”

Dryer declines to disclose revenue details for his business but says it has increased by 45 percent from 2013.

The training facility is 15,000 square feet, with 35-foot-high ceilings that allow for full games indoors.

“We’re going to expand,” Dryer says. “It’s going to be bigger. We’ve almost run out of room in five months. But that’s in the baby stages now, considering that we just got in here.”

Diamond Pro instructs players age 8 through college. Dryer also offers private lessons in softball and wants to bring that sport on par with baseball training in the coming years.

Small Business is a biweekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at sjacob@rbj.net.

3/21/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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