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29 April 2009

Baseball student managers just ‘one of the guys’

CHRISTINA DE NICOLA // HURRICANE STAFF
CHRISTINA DE NICOLA // HURRICANE STAFF

Behind the young Miami baseball team stand two veterans – but they’ve never taken to the field in a game or had their names on the back of jerseys.

Senior Ross Kumasaki and junior Scott Volpe are the two student managers for the 13th-ranked Hurricanes, which means they deal with everything from receiving Nike deliveries to setting up practice to helping the coaches.

“Most teams have to get the balls, tees and pitching machines on their own. Another big help that goes unnoticed is they actually keep us out of some trouble,” junior right-hander Anthony Nalepa said. “If I forgot my glove during stretching, which we need for batting practice right after, they usually grab it for us so we don’t have to run all the way back to the locker room. I don’t think they get enough credit for what they actually do because it’s all on their own time.”

Kumasaki, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, is no stranger to the game of baseball. His father is a pro scout for the Red Sox. Before deciding on a school, he wrote a letter to each coach asking if there was a way he could help out.

“Whether it was a good letter, or a bad letter, it was the only letter,” said head coach Jim Morris, who was the only one to write back. “He does a great job. He’s spent as much time as anybody in the program.”

Volpe, on the other hand, played four years of high school baseball and had a gym teacher who played on the 1985 national championship team call in a favor.

“It’s tough sometimes because I could play club ball if I wanted to, but I realized then that I wasn’t going to play in the big leagues so why even bother,” he said. “I’m still staying within the game.”

While Volpe acknowledges the obstacle of not having played in the majors to achieve his goal of becoming a general manager, he will be interning with the Red Sox this summer and hopes to follow in the footsteps of the team’s current GM, Theo Epstein.

“It’s a changing breed in the front office and he might be one of them because he’s a very smart kid who works very hard,” Morris said.

Volpe said that coming from a great program like Miami has already gotten his foot in the door watching the players develop and talking with scouts. It’s also gotten the Garden City, N.Y., native a fair share of perks.

“All the gear. The players get a lot, but we get more. Most people don’t realize that,” he said. “We get no pay at all and no volunteer credit for anything so the only benefits for us come in shoes, sunglasses. We have some of the same perks they do like having all of our classes before game time.”

And much like the most superstitious of baseball players, Kumasaki drinks a Grasshopper mint milkshake with Oreo before every game. The senior business management major doesn’t know what he will do after graduation, but remembers his favorite moment as a student manager.

“Probably the two times I went to Omaha with the team,” he said. “We had a really good team last year. I was really close with a lot of those guys since many of them who aren’t here anymore came in with me as freshmen.”

During the preseason banquet in which New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez stole headlines with his first public appearance after his admittance to steroids, Kumasaki fittingly won the “Unsung Hero” award.

“I would say they are both just fit for the position because they are both baseball fans and they both fit in with our team and are one of the guys because they care about how we do and they want to see us always winning,” junior Jason Hagerty said.