The Makers of the Diamond

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT Baylor Ballpark is the home ballpark of Baylor Bears baseball. Work on the stadium began following the 1998 season and opened to the public in 1999. Photo credit: Baylor Athletics

By Jordan Smith | Sports Writer

As Baylor Baseball heads into the Shriners College Classic this weekend with a record of 9-0-their best start since 1984-the Bears have had a lot of things go right for them this season.

One factor in ensuring everything goes well is the work of the field and bullpen crew for this baseball squad.

Justin Grassi, a senior student manager for the Baylor baseball field crew and an eight-year military veteran from Naples, Fla., laid out the schedule of what a typical day looks like at Baylor Ballpark.

“Prep for practice-we’ll usually get about 30 minutes to an hour before the practice actually starts, and essentially what we will do is set up for whatever it is they are doing that day,” Grassi said. “On a day like today when they are doing batting practice, we will come in and lay the tarps out, get the cages, the screens to protect the runners. Essentially, just lay it all out so all they have to do is come out and get started.”

Grassi said he enjoys his job and likes the opportunity he gets to connect to the game.

“You really get to know everybody and feel like a part of the team,” Grassi said. “We’re here for an hour before practice setting up, maybe 30 minutes afterwards putting it all away, and then we have a rotation of the four of us doing laundry at the end of the night. Anything they need during the week, whether it’s organizing the equipment room or cleaning up the dugout, we do that, and so you get to intimately know the facilities and the players and everyone around you.”

Out of the nine games that Baylor has played so far this season, eight of those games have been at home.

Baylor Baseball head coach Steve Rodriguez said he appreciates the work and effort that is shown by the field and bullpen crew.

“I think that a lot of people don’t realize the importance that we really have in those guys because in Texas there is a lot of weather issues, a lot of weather concerns,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got freezing points and stuff like that. They do a phenomenal job of dealing with all of the different humidities, the cold weather, the rain and making sure that this field is where it needs to be and if there is ever any issues where something is too soft or too hard.”

Rodriguez went on to talk about how much credit, or lack thereof, the field and bullpen crew gets for its hard work.

“I know from my standpoint that it is a group that never gets enough credit for what they do,” Rodriguez said. “I really do believe that we have one of the best playing surfaces and facilities in the country, and it’s a great testament to them. They spend countless hours out here before we get here and after we leave. They are making sure that this facility is looking great and plays as well as it needs to. I know they don’t get the credit they deserve, and we are very thankful they are here.”

Waco freshman Bryce Johnigan works as a bullpen catcher for Baylor. He says the baseball team is nothing short of family.

“I grew up around baseball my whole life,” Johnigan said. “I wanted to get involved with the team, and I saw this [job] advertised, and I thought that it was great. In high school, I was a centerfielder. I played outfield and haven’t caught since little league. So I came by and I talked to Coach Rod and tried it out and got it. It’s been fun; I’ve enjoyed it. I enjoy being around these guys. It’s almost like you are a part of the team.”

Baylor will face off against Ole Miss at noon today at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Fans can listen in to live play-by-play commentary on Baylor Lariat Radio.