COLUMBIA — It's not every day that you get to play and coach your teammates at the same game.
Some of Missouri baseball team's most experienced players had the chance to change roles and act as first-base coaches late into the Tigers' 22-2 win against the Ontario Blue Jays on Saturday at Taylor Stadium.
The unusual move was possible given Missouri's 12-run advantage after seven innings over the Blue Jays, a high school team hailing from Ontario, Canada. The Blue Jays, who are touring the Midwest, asked Missouri to set up a 12-inning exhibition game.
For the Tigers, the game provided an opportunity to play against another team during the fall, a time when they usually only play themselves. It also provided Missouri senior infielder Conner Mach and junior infielder Scott Sommerfeld a chance to show their skills off the field.
Assistant coach Dan Pietroburgo asked Mach to relieve him as first-base coach at the bottom of the eighth inning.
Although a bit surprised, Mach quickly accepted the task and even waved at the small crowd jokingly as he was announced as the new first-base coach. Someone even shouted out Mach's name, and there was a brief moment of laughter in the stands and the Tigers' dugout.
Mach, who had some informal experience as a coach during summer games, said that it felt a little weird to be off the field but that he tried to relax and enjoy himself.
"It was fun talking to the guys when they got on base," Mach said, smiling after the game. "I was trying to give them coach-like advice. I was trying to think what a real coach would say and help the guys in that way."
Saturday might have been Mach's first venture into a coaching career that would continue a family tradition.
"Actually, I could end up as a coach," Mach said. "I'm thinking about becoming a teacher after I play. So maybe I'll teach and coach. It's what my dad and my grandpa have always done. It's in our family blood."
At the bottom of the ninth inning, it was Sommerfeld's turn to coach his teammates from behind the first base. It was his first time coaching.
"It's one of those things you never get to do," Sommerfeld said. "So I thought I might as well give it a shot and said, 'Alright, I'll go out there.'"
Sommerfeld said his experience as a coach Saturday helped him see the game from a different perspective.
"As a coach, it's important to understand the game very well," Sommerfeld said. "Understanding the different situations and being a reference for the guys."
Beyond their temporary performances as coaches, Mach and Sommerfeld try to use their experience to help the younger players build their confidence. A great part of that has to do with relaxing and having fun during games, which Mach seemed to do most of Saturday's contest.
"I always try to have fun and keep it loose," Mach said. "It's important to have fun and not be tight and worry about making mistakes. That's how you should be playing the game."
Mach said excessive pressure was probably a factor in Missouri's loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship game last spring, so he now tries to help his younger teammates understand it's OK to make mistakes sometimes.
"Some of the freshmen come in a little nervous," Mach said. "Being a senior, they naturally look up to you, so I try to keep them relaxed. I feel I need to be a part of helping these guys grow as players."