Throwback Thursday: Matt Baty

Aug. 26, 2010

Matt Baty (Baseball 2003-06)

Matt Baty played six different positions during his four-year career with the Jayhawk baseball team. The Wichita native grew up a Shockers fan but quickly embraced the Crimson and Blue, winning numerous awards such as being named to the All-Big 12 team and winning Big 12 Tournament MVP honors during his senior season. Now that his playing days are over, Baty can be found on the campus of Wichita State University as the school’s Assistant Athletic Director of Development. Baty currently lives in Wichita with his wife and former KU rower Kris (Lazar) Baty and their 10-month-old twins Bryton and Karsyn.

You graduated from KU in 2006, what have you been doing since then?

After my playing career was done, I worked for the Big 12 Conference for a year as an administrative intern. In that position I worked on men’s basketball, football and baseball championships and I also worked with TV contracts and scheduling. In the fall of 2007 I came back to Kansas Athletics and worked in the marketing department. Then in May of 2009 I was hired by Wichita State as Director of Development. I have since been promoted to Assistant Athletic Director of Development.

What is it like working for your hometown team?

I’ve been a Shocker fan all of my life, so it’s great to be home. My wife’s family is here and so is mine. It’s great working someplace where I grew up. I was around these same coaches when I was younger and even attended camps here, so it’s nice in that respect. Also, to be around my parents every single day is great, I don’t have to drive two and half hours to see them. It also really helps with my work relationships. I developed these relationships with donors, fans, supporters and boosters many years ago. Some of them I’ve known since my childhood. Normally in this business you can’t just go in and ask for money for the program, but I am lucky that I have these relationships already that enable me to do that.

What are your responsibilities in your current position?

Our number one priority is our annual drive, which is similar to the Williams Fund at KU. For any athletic department at any school, their heartbeat is the annual drive, so it’s no different here. We raise money for a number of different things and really anytime there is request for money we’re involved. There’s another aspect to it, which is pretty neat. For a lot of these kids they are the first in their families to go to college and to see the look on their faces when they’re told their getting a scholarship to play baseball, it’s just great.

Growing up, did you have any players you tried to model your game after?

My favorite player growing up was Cal Ripken Jr., ‘The Iron Man’. He played every day, did everything right. He was hardnosed and respected the game. That’s the guy I really looked up to on the baseball field. As far as locally, WSU baseball was and still is huge. I grew up going to every game and seeing a lot of baseball. A good friend of mine and who I saw play here was (former Major Leaguer) Darren Dreifort who has been very loyal to us as well as Doug Mirabelli of the Boston Red Sox who was a favorite guy of mine growing up. Carl Hall and Mark Standiford were also very influential during my playing career. I didn’t get to see him (Mark) play but I heard a lot about him and he eventually got to coach me.

Did you ever consider giving professional baseball a shot?

My number one goal in life was to play professional baseball. All through college I believed I could do it. My junior year I tore my ACL and my senior season I lacerated my spleen and my kidney in an on field collision. The way I played the game, I played hard and I felt if I couldn’t give 100% it just wasn’t fair to any team or organization. I was told by doctors that my career was over and I came back at the end of the season in 2006. My family told me to play if I really wanted to, so I had long conversations with the Chicago White Sox. They wanted to draft me, so I sat down with the scouts and I told them not to because I didn’t want to put them in a bad position if I ended up deciding not to play. I just didn’t want to be that guy who plays seven or so years in the minor leagues. Do I believe that I could have played pro ball? Absolutely, but ultimately you have to have the opportunity to do so and those chances are few and far between. I also wanted to have a wife and kids, so that was another important factor in my decision to end my playing career.

You played with your brother, Ryan, for two years at KU. What was it like teaming up with him in college?

I played right alongside my brother. He played first, I was over at second. I can honestly say it was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life other than when my babies were born and my wedding. Having your best friend whose also your brother go through the everyday grind of college athletics and seeing some of the best college stadiums and cities in the country, it’s just amazing. Life lessons are taught in baseball and experiencing that with your brother, I can’t even describe what that’s like. Playing for your state and your school with him, you just can’t beat it. Ryan went to play with the Devil Rays organization. He had a lot of potential, but unfortunately before he left Lawrence to play pro ball, he got hit by a drunk driver which gave him a concussion. After he recovered from that he was playing pretty well, but then got hit with a 95 mph fastball to his head. The final straw was when he was later kicked in the head at a play at first. Doctors told him another injury to his head and it could leave him with permanent damage, so he decided he had a good run and realized there were more important things in life than just baseball.

What would you say was the highlight of your playing career?

By far the highlight of my career was winning the Big 12 Championship my senior year. Being around (head coach) Richie Price and (reliever) Don Czyz and going through the grind together being the cellar dwellers and working our tails off to win the Big 12 our senior year, that was amazing. I won MVP for the tournament and that was an honor because I was told I would never play again because of the injuries I has sustained the last two years. So that was just amazing, seeing everyone celebrate and being with Don Czyz on bottom of pile at the end of the game, I’ll never forget that.

You play baseball in February, March and April, which in Kansas can be pretty cold. What is the coldest game or worst weather condition you recall playing in?

I remember once we were playing Creighton here at KU and we had about eight or nine inches of snow on the field. It was icy and it was February and we had the tarp on the field. The ice was literally stuck to the tarp underneath all of that snow and we were thinking ‘what are we going to do?.’ So we just took ice scrapers and shovels and took the snow off of the tarp inch by inch. We totally ripped apart the tarp, but we ended up playing even though we had piles of snow out on the warning track. It was almost like an obstacle course out there. Then one time we were actually taking batting practice when it was snowing, I mean really heavy, blinding snow. Imagine trying to hit a white ball in the middle of all those white flurries! It turned out to be the best and most fun practice we ever had. Guys are in the outfield getting hit by balls left and right because they couldn’t see, it was a blast.

What are your future plans? Do you see yourself possibly working in the front office of a major league team?

College athletics is my niche. I love being around and affecting the lives of student-athletes. I’ve worked at conference offices before, but ultimately it’s about being near the student-athletes. That one year I worked at the Big 12 and was away from them, it was tough. My eventual aspirations are to be an athletic director somewhere someday. Lew Perkins is a mentor of mine and if could follow in his footsteps somewhere around here, it would be an absolute dream. I would like to stay local because my wife and my families are here and family is everything.