Former Oriole infielder Tim Nordbrook says that for seven years he has been dreaming about and working on a way to combine baseball, sports instruction, job opportunities for youth and community service.
He has shaped his idea into a commercial project he calls MAAC, for Mid-Atlantic Athletic Complex. Now he is trying to put it all together in Harford County.
Nordbrook and others working with him say they are close to solidifying critical aspects of the project, such as the land, a team of investors and contracts with softball teams that would use the complex.
"There's a lot of things that have to go right for this to be accomplished," Nordbrook, 41, says.
"We are at the point of putting all of our numbers through the reality test," adds Thomas J. McLaughlin, a Bel Air lawyer working with Nordbrook on the project.
McLaughlin estimates the start-up cost of the project at $2.6 million.
"This would be a state-of-art sports complex," says Nordbrook, who played with the Orioles from 1974 to 1976. "There would be nothing like this in the United States."
The initial component of the project would be six to 16 softball fields, some with lights, on which teams would play for a fee. Batting cages are planned, too.
Nordbrook says he wants to have the softball fields in operation by the spring of 1993. They would be used to attract major tournaments and offered to many of the hundreds of teams in the Baltimore region, he says.
"We think we can make money right away, the first year of operation," McLaughlin contends.
Other components Nordbrook wants to phase in include a sports-medicine clinic; a baseball school for youngsters where current and former major league players would help instruct, a driving range, a restaurant and retail outlets for sporting goods.
After his stint with the Orioles, Nordbrook, a Baltimore native and Loyola High School graduate, played with several other major league teams before becoming a coach and manager in the minor leagues. Then he got into restaurant management.
He says he has secured letters of intent from some former and current players who would help with instruction at the proposed baseball school.
McLaughlin says the project planners have been negotiating to buy one of four possible sites in Harford. He declines to identify the sites, but says they are in the Riverside, Aberdeen and Churchville areas.
According to Nordbrook's plan, most of the work force at the complex would be made up of high school and college students. He also wants to offer scholarships to students who work hard and maintain good grades.
"We think we have a nice theme for this thing," he says. "The bottom line is the kids."
Nordbrook sees the project as a way of offering recreational opportunities to all age groups in a time when local governments are strapped for money. He wants to allow groups of disadvantaged or disabled youngsters to use the complex for free.
"It's something that can be a very positive thing for the county," says Stan Kozenewski, the Harford County parks and recreation director, who has met with Nordbrook about the project.
"There's only so much we can do. There aren't unlimited funds," Kozenewski says.
Nordbrook also has had informal discussions with William Carroll, the Harford County planning and zoning director. "I think it has some merit," Carroll says of the project.
"There is a dearth of adult recreational facilities," says W. Stephen Pannill, vice president for administration and finance at Harford Community College. He adds that there is "considerable" demand for softball fields.
Kozenewski says some softball players in the county must travel outside the county, partly because there are few lighted fields in Harford. One draw of Nordbrook's proposed complex may be a higher "standard of care," he says.
The college recently opened Thomas Run Park and rents two softball fields there to adult teams. The park was built at a cost of $700,000.
Pannill says the college charges teams $25 to $30 a game to use the fields, calling that an average fee. He adds that the college expected a "modest" backlog of teams wishing to play on its fields during the fall season.
McLaughlin says Nordbrook's proposed complex may be able to command a higher fee if it is able to offer well-maintained fields, electric scoreboards and other amenities.
While acknowledging that he wants to make a living on the project, Nordbrook says the crux of his idea is to be able to offer instruction and activities for youngsters.
"To be able to get up in the morning knowing that I'll be instructing is really what I want to do," he says.