Feb. 5, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Note: This feature was published in the Feb. 1 Baylor Bear Insider Report. Fans can join the Baylor Bear Foundation and receive these reports via e-mail by visiting www.BaylorBearFoundation.com.
For a group of baseball players that were drafted off last year’s Big 12 championship team, the first trip back to Baylor Ballpark can be a little strange.
“It’s weird being on the other side and watching them practice. I feel like I should be out there,” said former All-American outfielder Logan Vick, who was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 11th round. “Especially in the fall, when they were scrimmaging, I was like, ‘What am I doing up here? I’m supposed to be out there with them.’’’
Along with Josh Ludy, Max Muncy and Josh Turley, Vick has returned to Baylor to work out and get ready for the 2013 spring training that is now less than a month away. And they were welcomed back “with open arms” by this year’s team and coaches Steve Smith, Steve Johnigan, Trevor Mote and Gregg Glime.
“The last three years, you spent every day working out with the same guys, and a lot of them are still here,” said Muncy, a fifth-round draft pick by the Oakland A’s who spent last summer at Beloit, Iowa.
“When you sign to come here, you join a family. And just because you leave, that doesn’t mean you’re not part of the family anymore. You come back, and everybody welcomes you with open arms. Everyone still treats you like you’re a team, even though you’re not here. It’s been a ton of fun coming back, hanging out with the guys, hanging out with the coaches. They’ve been awesome.”
For Ludy, the realization that he was no longer part of the team came on his first day back, when “I went to my locker room and realized it wasn’t my locker again.”
“That was kind of a weird thing at first, but you get used to it,” said Ludy, an eighth-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies who hit .271 last year at Class A Lakewood. “It’s just good to be back around it, being able to use the facilities and just being around the guys and the coaches and everything.”
As the only senior in that group, Ludy was out of options. But the three drafted juniors had to make the choice last summer of whether to start their pro careers or come back for another year at Baylor.
“Every now and then, I kind of think about, ‘What would it be like if I was still here? One more year with the Baylor years; one more year with Baylor Nation,’’’ said Muncy, who had a smooth transition, hitting .275 with 20 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 23 RBIs with the Beloit Snappers in the Class A Midwest League. “I think it would be a ton of fun. But the opportunity came, and it’s a lifelong dream. It’s kind of hard to pass that up.”
Turley also made a smooth transition to the pros, following up his All-America season at Baylor by going 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 34.0 innings with the Connecticut Tigers. He was drafted in the 16th round by the Detroit Tigers.
“It was a different experience for me, coming out of college ball to professional ball,” Turley said. “But I feel like I made a pretty good adjustment to it and had a great time while I was up there. . . . I’m just working on getting my arm back in shape and getting ready for spring training. I’m definitely excited to get this season going, and I think I’ve trained pretty well to this point to get where I need to be. It’s a great thing to have these guys around to run and lift with every day.”
Muncy and Vick found themselves on the opposite ends of the spectrum once they left Baylor and started their pro careers. While Muncy shared a three-bedroom apartment with nine guys, “living on air mattresses,” Vick said he was the lucky one, living in a “three-story house by myself. I felt like I was a prince or something.”
“Everything has been completely different than what it was here at Baylor,” Muncy said. “People don’t see what goes on behind the scenes here, but the athletes get taken care of very well. We travel first-class, we stay in first-class hotels, we get first-class food. You go to the minor leagues, and I was eating peanut butter sandwiches every day. If we were on a winning streak, we might get some jelly or Nutella, possibly.”
The biggest adjustment, though, was “waking up and having a game every single day,” Vick said.
“In college, you’re playing four, maybe five games a week, and it’s easy to get excited for those games,” he said. “You’re playing rivals, and then we had the win streak going last year. If you couldn’t get up for those games, I don’t know what excites you. But playing every single day in front of smaller crowds, not very important games, I think that’s the biggest thing is being able to motivate yourself to go out and do your best every single day.”
Much like last year, when “we were very underrated,” Turley said, the expectations are low for a 2013 Baylor team that has to replace four All-Americans and a ton of production. The Bears, who do return 20 letterwinners, open the season Feb. 15-17 with a three-game series at UC-Irvine.
“I think coach Smith said something in the First-Pitch Luncheon about how the Collegiate Baseball poll doesn’t even have them ranked in the top 40,” Turley said. “It’s kind of similar to how we were last year. Nobody took us seriously, nobody really expected anything great from us. That’s a great thing to have, though, going into a season. You don’t have to live up to expectations, you make them as you go.”
“They may not have the most talented guys on the team,” Vick said, “but they play as a team. And that’s what’s going to make them so good is they love each other and they’re going to play the game for the person next to them and not for themself. When you have all the guys on the team playing together, that makes them very talented.”
Ludy said this year’s Bears have to carry the same approach as last year’s team and become “one-pitch warriors.”
“When we started last year, I don’t think anybody even had us in the top 25 at all,” said Ludy, who earned All-America and Big 12 Player of the Year honors. “It’s not something we really cared about, and I don’t think these guys do, either. It just comes down to you’ve got to play. And I think that will take care of itself.”
While they’re no longer officially part of the team, the bond from last year’s magical season has not waned.
“We’re all back here, hanging out with the same guys, practicing with the same guys, still doing the same exact stuff we would be doing if we were still here,” Muncy said. “The only thing is we’re not taking classes and we’re not part of the team. But we’re still out here every single day with them, sweating and doing everything they’re doing.”