Big Train offers a way to swing into local baseball

By Ben Schick, Senior Writer

It is the bottom of the ninth inning.  There are two outs, the bases are loaded, and the home team is down by three runs.  As the batter takes his place in the batter’s box, the pitcher wipes a thin layer of sweat from his forehead.  The pitcher winds up, delivers the pitch and…

The suspense of a baseball game can bring fans to the edge of their seats.  However, this type of excitement is not only experienced at Nationals Park and in the MLB, it can be felt at any Bethesda Big Train baseball game.  Big Train, founded by Bruce Adams and Jim Ourisman in 1997, is a summer college team that allows college players to compete in the sport they love while not at school.

“When you go out there you see a lot of good talent,” Adams said.

While Big Train allows college players to compete during the off season, the organization does much more for baseball in the area.  The money raised from each Big Train game goes to the restoration and creation of children’s baseball fields in the area.

“I was looking for a way to improve playing fields for kids,” Adams said.  “I wasn’t coming up with anything, so I thought of summer college baseball.”

Early on in the process, it seemed as though it would be difficult to create and sustain a college summer baseball team in an area that offers so many available forms of entertainment.

According to Adams, college summer baseball was something that people thought would not succeed in Montgomery County.  However, the community rallied around the formation of the team.

“We defied the history of college summer baseball,” Adams said.

Since 1997, Big Train has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars that has gone toward their goal of improving baseball fields in Montgomery County.

In May 2012, Big Train paired up with Bethesda-Chevy Chase (B-CC) Baseball to help attract more fans and sustain the program.

“We have the same goals as a non-profit,” General Manager Adam Dantus said.  “It’s really helped us increase our fan base.”

Although Big Train has staged a monumental effort in making baseball easier and more fun for kids in the area to play, it has also provided Montgomery County with entertaining, high level and affordable baseball throughout the summer.

Big Train attracts some of college baseball’s brightest players.  About three to four Big Train players per year get drafted in the MLB draft to play professional baseball.  Big Train has four former players currently playing in the MLB.  In 2011 Big Train was named National Champions among college summer teams.

According to Dantus, since the summer of 2011 the talent on the team has been outstanding.

“College coaches call us to have players play for Big Train,” Dantus said.  “Recruitment has been easy since the 2011 season.”

In addition to great baseball, Big Train offers fans a family-friendly outing.  The team showcases a non-profit of the night and offers tasty concessions and activities for kids such as the mascot race and the balloon bash.

“The value that you’re getting is second to none,” Dantus said.  “We have high expectations for this season.”

Big Train is also a great way for students to get SSL hours.  Senior Johnny Francheski volunteered for three years at Big Train, two as their mascot, and one as their score board operator.

“It may not be helping the needy, but it is still helping the community,” Francheski said.  “I’d recommend it to anyone looking to get SSL hours.”

Big Train’s exhibition games start June 1, and the home opener is on June 7.