Baylock doesn't show any signs of slowing down
Norwich — Oppressive heat greeted Andy Baylock when he walked onto the Dodd Stadium infield Thursday afternoon.
The uncomfortable weather certainly wasn't going to prevent Baylock, who recently turned 80, from throwing batting practice for the Connecticut Tigers.
It's something he's done for 16 years for all the minor league teams that have called Norwich home.
Baylock's warm-up routine is actually no warm-up routine at all, unless you count pounding the baseball into your glove three times before unleashing the first pitch. He throws from the stretch to make his motion as realistic as possible for the young batters, firing in four-seam fastball after four-seam fastball.
Baylock showed no sign of fatigue. His right arm was still fresh after tossing about 180 pitches from 50 feet. He maintains his arm strength by doing some regular drills.
"How many guys my age are doing what I do?" Baylock said. "There aren't any. ... This is a gift. When you have a gift, you use it."
His only compensation is a free cheese steak sandwich. He watches eight innings and then leaves to beat the traffic, listening to the final inning on the radio on his 21-mile drive home to Mansfield.
It's a great way for Baylock, who only works home games, to stay in shape.
"I enjoy it," Baylock said. "Between that and I've got five lawns on my street that I mow with a 22-inch power (push) mower. That's how you stay young. I don't want to look like an old guy."
No chance of that happening any time soon.
He's having too much fun to stop. On his 80th birthday in late June, he showed up at Dodd for his summer routine. He also threw out the ceremonial first pitch right down the middle with 36 relatives watching.
Baylock's value to the Connecticut Tigers is difficult to measure. His presence alone brightens the atmosphere.
"He's unique," said Connecticut hitting coach Bill Springman, who's known Baylock for years. "He's kept himself in great shape. He's a throwback to the very old school. I'm just so proud to know him and have him be a friend. Plus, we love him here. This is his passion. He loves throwing BP.
"He's the same every day, which is very hard to do for anybody. When he comes down the stairs every day in our home ballpark, it makes everybody feel good. He has the same smile on his face. He can't wait to get here. We're very thankful and blessed for him."
Baylock, a retired UConn baseball coach now working as the director of UConn football alumni/community affairs, is in demand for his underrated skill.
It's not easy to find someone as good at his craft as Baylock, who served for three years as the Team USA pitching coach and had Jack McDowell and Kevin Brown on his staff.
"That's been my specialty," Baylock said about pitching, "because I learned from the best."
He's talked pitching with Tom Seaver and Warren Spahn, two Hall of Famers. He once asked Spahn what he thought about a pitcher icing down his arm.
"He said, 'I take a hot shower, have a cold beer and go home and go to bed,' " Baylock said.
By the way, Baylock never ices his arm after tossing batting practice. And don't even get him started about pitch counts.
Baylock has survived being drilled a few times. While coaching in the Cape League, he took a line drive in the shin from Billy Almon, who starred at Brown and ended up playing for eight major league teams.
Three days later, Baylock went to the emergency room and the doctor discovered a blood clot and removed it.
Over the years, Baylock has thrown batting practice at several different levels, from Cape Cod League to Eastern League to New York-Penn League. He's done minor league all-star games. He once pitched at a Legends Night home run derby featuring Carlton Fisk, Dave Winfield, Mike Schmidt and Johnny Bench at Dodd Stadium.
He's greatly respected in baseball circles. Former Tiger great Alan Trammell, who'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this month, gave Baylock a big hug during a recent visit to Dodd Stadium.
"He's not only known here, he's known nationwide and worldwide," Springman said.
Springman figures that one day Baylock will throw a strike down the middle and walk off into the sunset.
Baylock has a different ending in mind to his batting practice pitching career.
"Maybe a line drive to the forehead, buried under the mound and reincarnated as a foul pole," Baylock said with a smile.
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