Tyler is the Director of Baseball Operations for the Missouri State Bears Baseball team. He helps coordinate equipment and video and analytics and travel and is organizing an incredible hitting clinic for baseball coaches this fall.
“I still think we’re just scratching the surface of everything we can learn from analytics.”
Working in Baseball Operations must be like being the benchwarmer for the coaches, doing everything necessary behind the scenes so the coaches can help the players be their best.
I sat in his office and admired the MSU hats and baseball equipment scattered around and wondered what skill I could possibly offer a baseball team in exchange for employment. I couldn’t think of anything. I pounded the mitt in my hand, the old Wilson, and Tyler commented on it and tried it on. It was then that I noticed Tyler is a southpaw. He tossed me his catcher’s mitt(!) and camo-skinned infielder’s glove, both stitched with the Bears’ logo on the outside of the thumb.
Before coming to MSU, Tyler worked in the Indians organization, doing video work with the AA team in Akron. An Indians fan, Tyler’s got friends all across baseball, from the Dodgers to the Yankees. He loves the movie Major League and says that working with the Bears team is really fun.
“I’m here all the time.”
Again, I tried to brainstorm something I could do to contribute to the baseball program of my alma mater.
Again, nothing came to mind.
Today’s weather is the exact opposite of yesterday’s, breezy and beautiful. Instead of heading to the indoor training facility at Hammons Field like we had planned, Tyler walked me to the warning track in right field.
“But we really need to keep off the grass,” Tyler warned.
Even after multiple inches of rain, the grounds crew was able to get the field ready for the game last night, a game the home team won. My backyard audibly squished when I walked across it early this morning. I’m truly amazed at the designs of baseball fields and the wisdom of those who help maintain these stadium sanctuaries through all kinds of weather. After ten minutes of listening to our feet crunch on the red brick surface and my back pop with every turn, Derek (Day #43) drove by.
It’s been 200 days since I played catch with Derek. My arm is no longer constantly slathered in Icy Hot as it was during those first couple months of stretching out all the muscles. Derek said his softball season was solid and that his arm’s in much better shape than it was at the end of last year.
“I’d be up for another game of catch.”
Maybe I could talk him in to a game of long toss on the outfield grass after the Cardinals season is finished. Or taking a few ground balls at second base or shagging flies or…maybe not.
Tyler and I resumed our game of catch, our muscles now sufficiently loose. We spread out on the warning track and laughed as we tossed the ball. Just like the other lefties I’ve played catch with this year, every throw of Tyler’s had movement. Pop, pop, pop.
It’s simple really, just tossing a ball. Playing with different grips. Feeling the seams beneath fingertips and using different pressures and arm slots. Watching the various spins on return throws. Squeezing the ball as soon as it snaps into the pocket. Playing catch is one of the most rudimentary skills involved in playing this game. There’s no real need to video or analyze a game of catch.
Because it’s impossible to put a number on the life-changing power of fun.