The suspensions and cancellations of sport seasons have become common news over the past few months. However, former Shippensburg University infielder Tommy Baggett is one athlete who still found himself on the diamond playing professional baseball.
The SU product is a member of the Baseball Brilliance Sox in the Yinzer Baseball Confederacy (YBC). The four-team league is comprised of players from the Black Sox and the Washington Wild Things. Before the pandemic, the Wild Things played in the Frontier League, which suspended its championship season back on June 24.
Athletes played all YBC games at Wild Things Park in Washington County, Pennsylvania. As a Williamsport, Pennsylvania, native, Baggett had the opportunity to play close to home.
Even with the ongoing pandemic, Baggett said fans were permitted to attend games at 25% capacity. However, he said fan interaction with the players was prohibited, and all players had their temperatures taken when they arrived at the ballpark.
Despite the strict guidelines, Baggett said he felt fortunate to be back out on the diamond.
“With all the complications and problems that have come with the virus, it’s amazing to even be playing baseball right now,” Baggett said. “This league was kind of a last-minute thing and to be out there competing feels great.”
Since the beginning of play on July 9, Baggett kept a consistent bat and tore the cover off the ball. Through his 12 games played, Baggett sports a .325 batting average with three doubles, two triples and four RBIs. Additionally, his four walks on the season bring his on-base percentage to a solid .449.
Baggett credits his success at the plate to his playing days at SU. Baggett graduated in spring 2019.
“Coach Jones ingrained a hard work ethic in all of us and that has stuck with me through my pro ball career thus far,” he mentioned.
In addition to the lessons he learned at Ship, Baggett said he had the opportunity to see a lot of at-bats over the past few months. He said staying active on the diamond has helped keep his swing in rhythm.
Before the pandemic closed states, Baggett spent some time in south Florida for spring training with the Black Sox. Once he was sent home from that, he set up five weekends of recreational baseball in his hometown. His former SU teammate, Michael Hope, and other athletes in Minor League Baseball organizations, participated in the weekend events.
“Thanks to spring training and the weekends up in Williamsport, I was able to see a lot of live pitching which helped me stay in my routine,” Baggett said. “In addition to the live action, my former Shippensburg teammate, Zack Zoller, has been huge with giving me workouts I can do from home.”
Baggett has also received some advice from former major league ballplayer Brandon Phillips.
The three-time Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star and Four-Time Gold Glove winner, is also a member of the Baseball Brilliance Sox. Phillips, who enjoyed a 16-year MLB career, was not an offensive staple for the Sox, but served more as a mentor and teacher to his teammates.
“To see a guy who is 39 years old and is still out here playing and helping younger players is just an incredible experience,” Baggett said. “To be able to have the opportunity to talk with him one-on-one and learn the knowledge he’s acquired over his career is not something many people can say they have done.”
Despite an already shortened season, the YBC was forced to suspend the remainder of its games on Aug. 10. According to a statement from the Wild Things, the organization confirmed that they were warned by the Pennsylvania State Police that a continuation of the baseball season could lead to enforcement actions.
While this was not the ending to the season Baggett wanted or expected, he said he is still thankful that he experienced some action on the field this summer.
“I am extremely grateful to be able to show up to the field everyday and get the opportunity to play when so many others couldn’t,” Baggett said. “Overall, it was an incredible experience that I will never forget.”