COLUMBIA — It’s a philosophy that permeates through the Missouri baseball team from the coaches to the players, even down through the trainers: Take one for the team— let yourself get hit by a pitch.
“We really preach it. We talk about it all the time, and it’s something that’s important to our offense to be able to get on base,” said Tim Jamieson, coach of the MU baseball team.
Jamieson isn’t talking about taking extra batting practice or being patient at the plate. He’s talking about staying in the batter’s box when an inside fastball is thrown a little too inside, when it’s rocketing straight toward your thigh, or maybe your ribs.
He’s talking about taking one for the team — about letting players get hit by a pitch.
Missouri players have been hit 64 times in 42 games this season, 17th most in Division I baseball and second in the Big 12, behind only Texas A&M. Last season, they were hit 97 times in 60 games, finishing the year seventh in the nation in the hit-by-pitch column. In 2007, they were hit 107 times.
“We get drilled on the fact that we need to stay in front of the pitch, help your team out, just try to get on base any way you can,” said Greg Folgia, who’s been hit 12 times in 41 games to lead the Tigers in the hit-by-pitch column.
“If you need to score runs, you have to get people on base first, and it’s a big momentum builder if you can get hit by a pitch, especially with two strikes,” Jamieson said. “It’s part of the plan, it’s part of our approach, and if you do it right, it shouldn’t be that painful.”
And the players say it isn’t that painful. For the most part.
“If it gets on a part of your body that’s got a lot of meat there or muscle, it’s all right," Folgia said.
But getting hit on the bone is different, he said. "Right here on my elbow is swelling up pretty bad," Folgia said.
For their part, Jamieson and his staff coach their players on the best way to get hit.
“We do talk to them. We don’t want anybody to get hit in the head, we don’t want anybody to get hit in the hand, we don’t want anybody to get hit in the feet because that’s where you’re prone,” he said. “So you got to learn where to get hit and how to get hit, and if you learn how to do it, you’ll protect yourself. You’re going to get bruised, but that should be the extent of it."
The team also practices getting hit by pitches. “Not full-speed, but we do do some drill work where that’s involved,” Jamieson said.
But even with the staff’s coaching, injuries can happen.
Last fall, junior infielder Michael Liberto was hit in the head and had to miss two games because of a concussion.
Athletic trainer Matt Long helped attend to him. Long recalls, among other injuries, players getting hit in the ribs and coughing up blood, concussions and a variety of nicks and bruises. But he still believes in Jamieson’s philosophy.
“More often than not, I would recommend stepping into it,” Long said. “It doesn’t feel great, it’s going to be sore for a couple of days, but it’s part of the game and part of being a team player.”
Folgia is a believer too, swollen elbow and all.
“If it’s inside, don’t move," he said. "You’ll look like a man that way.”