The Missouri baseball team uses a number of utility personnel. They don’t have a batting average, or any RBIs, and they must pay for their own uniforms. Instead of using eye black, they wear mascara.
This group, 27 MU students who work at home games as batgirls and at times help the grounds crew, are known to many as the Diamond Darlings. But their official name is the Tiger Crew.
This weekend’s NCAA baseball regional in Columbia posed a challenge for the group. NCAA rules forced it to move from its usual spot by the on-deck circle to the dugouts.
Second-year member Kathryn Lucchesi said being relocated was difficult.
“It’s hard to stay focused in the Louisville dugout,” she said. “Because they have us sitting in the middle, and we’re not used to that,” Lucchesi said.
Still, there might be cause for the NCAA rule.
During the regular season, Lucchesi was hit by a player’s bat as he warmed up in the on-deck circle.
“The bat just slipped out of his hands,” Lucchesi said, “and he was so apologetic about it. Really, it wasn’t a big deal.”
The Tiger Crew is aware its efforts will never lead to standing ovations, but both the home and away teams appreciate their work.
“For the most part, they’re usually grateful that they have us there,” Tiger Crew captain Lauren Oney said. “If we aren’t there, they are doing it themselves.”
Fans seem to appreciate the group, too. MU senior Rick Angevine, who has been to many games to watch his roommates, MU players Rick Zagone and Kurt Calvert, said he has come to see the Tiger Crew as an asset to the team.
“At first it’s odd that they’re down there, but then you realize they are just fans of the game,” Angevine said. “They let everyone know they’re in ‘Zou’ town.”
MU senior Brandon Hamilton said the group makes Taylor Stadium unique.
“They are the perfect cheerleaders for baseball,” he said. “The Major Leagues have their batboys, but we’ve got our Diamond Darlings.”
The Tiger Crew occasionally travels to support the team. At the Big 12 Conference tournament in Oklahoma City, the group worked in the Tigers dugout. Lucchesi was even permitted by the Oklahoma City grounds crew to drag the infield between innings.
“There is a lot more to it then us just running out and getting bats,” Lucchesi said. “That is the most visible thing we are out there for, but it is not the only thing we do.”
The offseason is the busiest time for the Tiger Crew. Members raise funds to help pay for matching jerseys and shoes and the travel costs to away games. This is also when squad members who have graduated are replaced through an application process. Tiger Crew captains narrow down more than 300 applications to 100. Then they are taken to the baseball team’s coaches to be considered for 50 interviews. There is also a fall banquet so the new faces can get more quickly acclimated.
The large crowds at the regional have impressed the Tiger Crew.
Right now, the group’s hard work seems worth it.
“I’ve never seen us with a crowd over 1,400, and we’ve had over 3,000 every night,” Lucchesi said. “I wish I could personally go up to everybody individually and get them back for next year.”