COCKEYSVILLE, Md. - If Cal Ripken Jr. is the Iron Man, then Tim Bishop is the Pump Iron Man.
Bishop was drafted to play in both the NFL and MLB before he became an Orioles trainer in the company of Cal Ripken Jr., and the likes of Eddie Murray, Mike Mussine, Mike Bordick, and B.J. Surhoff.
"I would not count him out in anything," Bishop said of Ripken's athletic prowess. "I was fortunate enough to play basketball with him in the off-season and he was a heck of a basketball player. He actually picked up a little bit of golf at the end of his career. … He very quickly became a pretty solid golfer. If he set his mind on something he could achieve anything he wanted."
Bishop owns and operates Perform Fit -- a high-end training facility in Cockeysville -- where he has turned his attention away from professional athletes to children in hopes of becoming college ball players, the next Cal Ripken Jr. or maybe even a future Olympian.
"To get to the next level you really need to approach it like a professional athlete," Bishop said. "I know it's hard for those who are in high school and middle school, but those who are devoted really need to put the time, energy and effort into it – no shortcuts, good old fashion hard work. That's what gets you to the next level."
The two-story facility in Cockeysville features 40 yards of Astro Turf artificial grass, batting cages, gym equipment and trainers with real-world experience performing at high levels of competition.
"I played two professional sports but evidently not well enough. I got cut in both of them," Bishop said. "But it was a good life lesson for me too - how to work hard and make it to a certain level but also to bounce back and rebound after being released. It's going to happen to every athlete at some point."
"We are more structured and goal oriented. There are a lot of fads that come and go in the fitness industry. We like to think we're more science based."
For eight years, Bishop and his team have specialized in training baseball and lacrosse players, although athletes from all sports have come through Bishop's doors, some as young as 8-years-old.
"We want to influence the kids as an entire person and not just an athlete," Bishop said. "We want to have an influence on them where they can take these fitness, wellness, and performance habits into the rest of their life and create good healthy habits off the field."
It's the holistic approach that raises questions like -- how to encourage competitiveness? How much is too much?
"When I was a kid, I didn't feel like I had to be forced to go outside," Adam Kolarek, one of Bishop's former pupils, said. "I'd hurry up to get home from school … just to meet back up and play before the sun goes down."
Kolarek played baseball at the University of Maryland before he was drafted by the New York Mets in the 11 th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. In the off-season, he trains future all-stars at Perform Fit.
"When you get a kid that's interested and wants to learn, that makes it so much fun to work..." Kolarek said.
Pat Blair, another one of Bishop's protégés turned trainers, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. He is going to spring training this year and said he's ready for his first full season in the minor leagues.
He said Bishop's motto, and his no-so-secret-to-success, is focusing on technique.
"That is going to make you better," Blair said "He really takes pride in making sure that everybody is doing to the proper technique."
In the off-season, Blair spends his evenings teaching hitting and fielding at Perform Fit. The 22-year-old Wake Forest shortstop said kids today aren't necessarily more competitive. The tools are sharper to carve a more competitive athlete.
"Their opportunities are greater," he said. "There were not many facilities like this when I was young."
And Kolarek said the ones with the determination are taking advantage of it.
"You're seeing more and more at the major league level, or the NFL or NBA, you'll see more 20, 22 years," Kolarek said. "They're making a huge impact. Guys like Mike Trout or Manny Machado, they're make it early."
Bishop said he's grateful to have his former pupils back in the gym.
"We send kids out and help them get better on the field, but it's really rewarding to have them come back and be a peer," Bishop said.
Regardless of the options and expertise available to young people today, childhood obesity more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"That's the ultimate question: why do some people have that internal drive and others don't? I guess if we knew that answer we'd be very wealthy," Bishop said.
"Let's make this fun. Let's make them want to come back here," Bishop said. "Let's try to teach them healthy habits so they have that for a lifetime. The athletic part of it is
so short-lived, even if you make it to Division 1 lacrosse and get a scholarship, the reality is there's not many full scholarships. There's partials. … You're going for the education, which is going to last you a lifetime and so would your healthy habits."