From pastime to profession: Missouri baseball’s student managers create a career around the game
With dreams of playing big-league ball dashed, the managers combine their major and hobbies in the hopes to keep baseball in their future.
Oct. 31, 2020
In 2018, Adam Busack heard the words no baseball player ever wants to hear.
“You’ll never play again.”
Busack, a freshman from Denver, became another kid whose dreams on the diamond were dashed by injury.
But as he watched his team from the dugout, wearing a brace that stretched from his ankle to his thigh, he quickly realized that not being able to play couldn’t keep him away from the game.
“I was still going with the team to every game,” Busack said. “We only had one coach that year, and so by default, I was doing all the managing responsibilities.”
After committing to study sports journalism at MU, Busack used his connections to make his way to Taylor Stadium as the newest student manager for the Tigers.
On the field, student managers are given the mundane tasks — keeping the books, running machines in the batting cages or helping pitchers warm up in the bullpen.
While these tasks are important, managers will tell you the real value of their work is how they connect with the team. Busack said junior Chase Harmon and senior David Latlip are role models for both the student managers and the players.
“Just because we have such a high pedigree of people that have been around the block and really know what they’re talking about,” Busack said. “It makes everyone that’s around the program better by ethos.”
As a result of NCAA baseball’s postponement in March 2020, all of last year’s ballplayers gained an extra year of eligibility. That means 2021’s team will be the largest group of players on Missouri’s baseball roster.
Busack said memorizing all those names has made his integration into the team more difficult.
“When you’re meeting all these new players, they all have masks on and it’s so hard to put names to faces, especially because there are so many guys around the program this year,” Busack said.
Despite these challenges, Busack feels that he’s found a home at Taylor Stadium.
“I feel like I belong here, I really do,” Busack said.
Both Harmon and Latlip find themselves in the position of many student managers — they know they can’t play college ball, but they want to remain close to the game for their career.
That’s why many of them have chosen a degree path that could set them up for a job with a big league club.
“I’m a dietetic student here, and I want to be a nutritionist for an NFL or MLB team,” Harmon said. “It’s a very far goal, but I think it’s doable. The time that I’ve put in and the connections that I’ve made here will really help me out in the future.”
Latlip, a transfer student, is keeping his options open for his future as well. As a coach and hitting instructor in his hometown of Kansas City, Mo., he has worked with players of all ages — from seven year olds to D1 prospects.
While Latlip says coaching could be in his future, his degree could also point him in another direction.
“[I’m getting a] degree in economics, and I’m really into statistics,” Latlip said. “I’m learning more and more of that every day. That, along with my baseball experience, could open a door for a front office job. That’s one of the roads I could go down, and there’s a lot.”
Missouri’s baseball program has a long history of student managers landing high-profile positions.
Using their connections in the sport, head coach Steve Bieser, pitching coach Fred Corral and Jae Fadde, director of baseball operations, have sent former student managers to teams like the Baltimore Orioles or the Kansas City Royals.
As someone going through the job search process, Harmon wants the freshman managers to know that they don’t have to walk away from the diamond to follow a career.
“I want them to understand that they can do something with baseball, as well, if they put their heart to it,” said Harmon.
The Tigers went 11-5 in non-conference play to begin the 2020 season, playing their final game of the season on March 11 before college sports were eventually canceled for the remainder of the spring. After such a strong start, Harmon said the club has only one goal for this year.
“We’re going to go to Omaha, and we’re going to win it all,” Harmon said. “If you don’t have that mindset, I don’t know why you’d be playing. Omaha is everything.”
Edited by Jack Soble | firstname.lastname@example.org