Its now been more than two decades since a baby-faced Gregg Jefferies was considered the best baseball prospect in the country.
He didn't have elite physical attributes (he was listed at 5-foot-11, which is beyond kind), but what the Bay Area native did have was great teaching and a relentless work ethic. With that foundation, he spent 14 years as an infielder in the big leagues.
Jefferies has been deeply involved in youth baseball in the Tri-Valley since his retirement, coaching his son at Foothill High. But Jefferies says he's most interested in teaching and has built a sports facility in Pleasanton to mold young athletes into great players.
"I grew up with a teacher," Jefferies said. "My father is 71 and he's still coaching. He always told me be a teacher not a coach. A coach just tells you want to do, but a teacher is more invested and wants to see you grow. That's my passion, I grew up around it, I love to do it and this is what I know."
If Jefferies is a teacher, then he's built one impressive classroom.
The Gregg Jefferies Sports Academy — located at 6940 Koll Center Parkway — is 12,000-square-feet training center that opened last month. It features three batting cages, three pitching mounds, a 40-yard field to work on agility, a cardio room, a $75,000 weight room, a video room and even a room for birthday parties.
Jefferies didn't pick the location hastily. He spent more than a year searching with Darren Nicholson, a former MLB scout, for the perfect location.
"The goal was to really have an academy and not just to have some cages and tell parents 'we will teach your kids to hit,'" said Nicholoson, who is the president of the academy. "We turned down a lot of places, but once we found this spot we knew we could make it happen."
Talking with Jefferies, it's clear he's proud of what he's built, but he seems even more excited about the people he has surrounded himself with. He doesn't call his co-workers "colleagues" but instead "teammates."
Along with Nicholson, he's hired College World Series winner Eddie Delzer to teach pitching, former college quarterback Andrew Hamel to teach agility and strength and conditioning and Taryn Alexander to run the operation.
"You can have the most amazing facility with marble floors and everything but if you have the wrong instructors nobody is coming in" Jefferies said. "I've seen a lot of great places, but then I hear parents ask their kids what they learned today and they say they don't know. We want to teach, let the kids have fun and help them improve. We truly are a team here."
Though Jefferies teaches college and professional level players, most of the kids registered for classes are between the ages of 10 and 16. Jefferies said he prefers to start young so he can build a relationship and help the kids improve over time.
Jefferies said he isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, but just teach hitting the way he learned. "Hitting is kind of like a street fight, it's you against the pitcher," Jefferies said. "If you have that never quit mentality, it goes a long way. We believe in pushing the gas down. We want kids to be aggressive, use their hands and getting a ball they can hit."
You can learn more about the Gregg Jefferies Sports Academy at their website here.