Brandon Turner, who played at Walker Valley High School and collegiately at Mississippi State where he appeared in one College World Series and earned All-America honors, is starting a baseball academy he hopes will enable young players to stay in Chattanooga and participate on select teams to enhance their opportunities to play college ball.
A former college coach at Lee University, Carson-Newman College and Tennessee Tech University where he was the recruiting coordinator, Turner is opening the Turner Baseball Academy (TBA) at a 4,000 square-foot facility on Jersey Pike.
Turner is hopeful the new business venture, which opens on Sept. 1 and is now taking applications, will allow young baseball players to stay home to play rather than traveling to Atlanta, Knoxville or Nashville.
Turner, who said his wife, Morgan, is a nurse practitioner and on board with his new career move, plans to field 16-under and 17-under teams this fall and have teams ranging from 8-under to 18-under next year.
“The response already has been unbelievable,” said Turner, 28. “We’re getting calls and e-mails every day. In the past, a lot of Chattanooga kids have had to go to East Cobb (Atlanta area), Knoxville or Nashville to take advantage of a facility like ours. A lot of people around here are happy this organization is coming to Chattanooga.
“I know this stuff like the back of my hand because I always recruited from these types of organizations. It’s going to be competitive and I want a program that extremely strong in terms of helping youngsters become better players and help them move to the next level.”
In fact, Turner was on a recruiting trip in Tampa, Fla., when he galvanized his idea of leaving the college coaching ranks and opening a baseball academy in Chattanooga.
“I was watching games and there is a lot of time to think,” said Turner, selected out of Mississippi State by the Florida Marlins in the 12th round of the 2008 draft. “I thought how great it would be to open a facility back home and that got the wheels to spinning. I have a great deal of pride having grown up in this area and I want to help Chattanooga become one of the best areas in the state for baseball. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Turner has made cosmetic changes to the Jersey Pike building and put together an impressive staff for TBA, which is partly owned by veteran East Hamilton baseball coach Steve Garland.
TBA is also connected to Exposure Baseball, which fields select teams in 10-under to 18-under age groups. The goal of Exposure Baseball is to put players “in the best position to succeed as be seen by as many scouts and recruiters as possible,” according to the TBA website (turnerbaseballacademy.com).
Brandon Turner will serve as the hitting and infield coordinator while Garland is one of several hitting instructors. Garland guided the Hurricanes to the 2014 District 5-AAA regular-season championship and while coaching at Soddy-Daisy led the Trojans to the 2004 state tournament.
Turner’s father, Mike Turner, is a hall of fame coach at Charleston and Walker Valley high schools and will be a TBA coach.
Jamie Tricoglou (Pitching) – Played college baseball at Kennesaw State University and was picked by Colorado in sixth round of 2001 draft. Had six-year minor league career with Rockies.
Kyler Burke (Hitting, pitching) – First round draft pick by San Diego Padres in 2006 out of Ooltewah High School and had a seven-year minor league career with Padres and Chicago Cubs.
Joe Wingate (Hitting) – Current Chattanooga State Community College assistant. Also had assistant coaching stints at Arkansas State and Tennessee.
Matt Mihoci (Hitting) – Played and coached at Tennessee Tech. He also coached at Western Texas Community College.
Jake Edwards (Pitching) – Played one professional season (2009) in the independent Frontier League, appearing in 24 games and had 1-0 record. He played at Tennessee Tech.
Jon Clinard (Hitting) – Was all-conference player at Austin Peay State University from 2009-12.
Zach Stephens (Hitting) – Was All-American at Tennessee Tech and finished college career as the all-time OVC leader in home runs and RBIs. He currently plays in the Texas Rangers farm system.
Daniel Miles (Hitting) – Former Tennessee Tech infielder and eighth-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Matt Shepherd (Pitching) – Former pitcher at Tennessee Tech. He was picked by San Diego Padres in the 31st round of the 2012 draft and currently plays at Fort Wayne, Ind., in the Class A Midwest League.
Brendan Murphy (Hitting, catching) – Played prep ball at Grace Baptist Academy in Chattanooga and in college at Marshall University, where he was named to All-Conference USA team and postseason second team All-American by NCBWA. Was twice drafted by the Montreal Expos – first time in 2003 out of Grace and again a year later out of Garden City (Kan.) CC. Played from 2009-10 with Kalamazoo, Mich., in the Frontier League.
Chad Fromm (Pitching) – Played collegiately at David Lipscomb University.
Dustin Fromm (Coach) – Played collegiately at Lee University and currently coaches at Ocoee Middle School in Cleveland.
“It didn’t take long to get the staff together,” Turner said. “I made a few calls and got these guys on board. They were eager to do something like this.”
Starting a small business in the current economic times is a risky venture, but Turner doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think it’s a risk,” Turner said. “I’ve watched how other organizations work over the past six years or so and I want to build one like those. This thing will work. The feedback has been great over the past few weeks. I feel very positive about what we’re trying to do.”
NOTE: TBA has various membership packages available, including one- and two-year deals.
Several hitting and pitching rates by the hour or half-hour are being offered for members and non-members. Facility team rentals are also available.
Visit the academy website at turnerbaseballacademy.com for rate information. There is also an application form on the website. Parents can also phone the academy at 423-464-0320.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)