More than a manager
COLUMBIA – It’s 2 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon. Mizzou softball players are making their way into the team’s new stadium for practice. They line up down the left field for team stretches while chatting about this weekend’s opponent, nationally ranked Auburn and after a pep talk from Head Coach Gina Fogue, the team takes the field for practice.
But for team manager Jonathan Lynch, practice began a long time ago.
Lynch is one of the team’s three managers, responsible for a laundry list of things. He gets to the field before any of the players, sweeps the infield, puts the balls out, and sets up the batting cages.
“It’s crazy how much the managers do for us,” said junior outfielder Regan Nash. “They may be setting up the field or throwing batting practices but they’re always doing something.”
It’s a long day full of hard work, but his effort is anything but unnoticed.
“I want people to know exactly what they mean to us,” Nash said. “Jon [and the other managers] are amazing every single day.“
But Lynch thinks it’s the team that makes his job easier.
“We’re a really tight knit group. This is a great group of young women and I’m just thankful to be around them every day,” he said. “I wish this was a class, I’d take it 24/7.”
Lynch’s daily routine goes long past preparation work, though. A life-long passionate fan of both baseball and softball, Lynch serves as an extra pair of eyes for both the players and coaches. And with four years of experience with the team, he know what he’s looking for.
“He knows so much about the game,” Nash said. “If you just sit down and listen to him talk for five minutes, you’ll learn something new about softball.”
Lynch uses that expertise to help the players and coaches watch film, hoping to find any small detail that can give the Tigers an advantage against a future opponent.
“The amount of film work he does is insane,” Nash said.
“I just try to watch as much film as possible and then imitate that for them in practice,” Lynch said. “That way if we’re facing a girl that’s throwing predominantly rise balls, I try to imitate her windup as close as possible so it looks familiar for our girls in the game.”
Nash said Lynch’s replication work has made a big difference for the Mizzou offense in a few games this season already.
“We were facing Georgia and their pitcher Kylie Bass, and she’s left handed and so is Jon. And while throwing us batting practice, Jon was mimicking her rise ball and throwing it at the exact same speed she would throw it.
Mizzou scored four runs against Bass, including two home runs, the most she’s given up all season.
“We did really well against her and Jon had a big part in that,” Nash said.
“It could be the smallest thing that contributes,” Lynch said. “It’s one of those things where you never know, so you try to pick out any little thing that can help us be prepared and ready [to play].”
Lynch is also used as a left-handed batter when the team practices situational fielding every day. He’s tasked with giving them difficult plays that challenge the defenders to make quick decisions. Sometimes, he’ll crush the ball into the gaps between outfielders, forcing the team to relay the ball quickly. Other times, he’ll drop a bunt down the third baseline to simulate a sudden play at first base.
For Lynch, he hopes this is the first step in a long coaching career.
“It’s been a growing thing for me over the last few years. I’d like to find a coaching job somewhere and see where I can take it,” he said
And there’s already one player who would want to play for him.
“I’d love to have Jon as a coach,” Nash said. “He’s a great person, first off,. Plus, he knows so much about the game and he’s great at explaining it, too.”
Lynch said it’s just the way he gives back to the sport he loves.
“I honestly wish I could go out there and play around with them,” he said. “I love being able to help as a manager and hopefully as a coach some day. My passion definitely drives it that much more over the top for me.”