BY STEVE KRAH
Brad Mumma learned decades ago he wanted to help others.
“I was touched as a teenager,” says Mumma, who turned 39 on April 1. “It changed me. It humbled me.”
He had the opportunity to help feed and clothe others — in some cases classmates — living in his community.
Mumma (pronounced MOO-muh) still looks back on his days with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes group at LaPorte (Ind.) High School and remembers that feeling.
Dave Krider and wife Lois led the FCA chapter and helped plant that compassion in Mumma, who earned 11 athletic letters for the LaPorte Slicers (three in football and four each in basketball and baseball), where he graduated in 1999.
“My coaches were fantastic role models and leaders for me,” says Mumma.
After playing for Bob Schellinger on the gridiron, Joe Otis on the hardwood and Ken Schreiber and Scott Upp on the diamond, the Slicer lefty went on to play baseball at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in Mishawaka, Ind., and Western Michigan University, where he met his future wife Rose (the Mummas now reside in the Detroit Metro town of Fraser, Mich., with their four children — Madelyn, 8, Bradley Jr., 7 Ellie, 3, and Max, 1).
Mumma was drafted as a left-handed pitcher in the 32nd round of the 2003 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
He was in the Blue Jays system through 2006 then spent three seasons in independent professional baseball with the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats, Schaumburg (Ill.) Flyers and Joliet (Ill.) JackHammers.
Before his playing days ended, he began teaching lessons through his Mumma Baseball Academy.
He found himself being a sounding board for the parents of his clients. They were telling him about their son’s travel ball experience — some of it was negative.
When the opportunity came for Mumma to expand his reach, he wanted to accentuate the positive.
Adam Rosales, a Western Michigan teammate who made it to the majors by playing multiple positions (mostly in the infield), started an online training business called Baseball Utility. Rosales is now a coach in the Oakland Athletics organization.
When Mumma decided to get into the world of travel baseball and to cross-promote, he decided to call his group Baseball Utility Travel.
“I found some like-minded people,” says Mumma. “We can do this without some undesirable things about travel ball.
“Parents can really put a lot of pressure on their own kids.”
It’s about player development and human development.
Something as seemingly innocent as “Come on, Johnny, throw strikes!” can be a negative cue or phrase.
“Studies show that players don’t want you to say these things,” says Mumma. “We’re trying to help guide (parents) on what is proper to say.
“A clap is sometimes better than saying something.”
Baseball Utility Travel’s mission statement: “Development. Our mission statement could end right there. We are about developing your child into the best player he can possibly be at the age and skill level he is currently at. Striving for that on a year to year basis you will see the growth of your child both on the field and off the field. Nothing, including winning will ever trump the development of your child, period. All of this being done in a positive environment that promotes maximum growth.”
Mumma has crafted a comprehensive Code of Conduct for both players and parents and has them sign a copy.
In part, that code states that players are expected to be on time (which means being ready to go 15 minutes before any activity). If they are going to be late, they are expected to call or text their coach.
Another expectation: Spikes on, uniform on, belt on, hat straight, Shirt tucked in, pants not sagging.
“You can rock your hat backward at the mall, I do myself, but on the field it’ll be straight with no hair showing out the front,” says Mumma. “Take pride in how you look.”
Mumma notes that umpires are going to miss calls and players should get used to it. If you show-up an umpire on the field they will promptly be taken out.
“I don’t care if he blew the easiest call ever, we will play with class,” says Mumma. “When you fail, which you will, act like you’ve played the game before and you understand that failure is a big part of this game.
“If you decide to put on a show after you strike out or make an error a replacement will be sent in without hesitation. The same will take place if you hit a pop up and don’t run it out as hard as you can. We will sprint on and off the field as if we were running from the cops.”
Another lesson to be learned is responsibility. So players are expected to carry their own bag, bring their own drinks and equipment.
“Control the things you can control and this will be a great experience,” says Mumma. “Things players can control: Attitude, effort, preparation, hard work and dedication. Things they can’t: Umps, crappy fields, crappy weather, umps, umps, where you hit in the lineup, and much more. And umps.”
As for parents, they are expected to get their player to practice and games on time and communicate with the coach if they are going to be late.
Mumma also tells parents how to deal with game officials.
“Umpires won’t be great so please understand that,” says Mumma. “It is not your job to communicate with them, you will directly affect your son and our team if you take that matter into your own hands. We’re teaching our coaches how handle them with class, and how to get on them when necessary.”
There is a policy where parents can ask a manager or coach about playing time or the place in the batting order 24 hours after a competition. But they must be ready to hear something they might not want to hear.
Parents are asked to cheer and avoid negative cues. They are to stay away from the dugout unless it is absolutely necessary. They are not to approach a coach in the dugout, after a game or in the parking lot.
“Please wait until the next day to handle your issue,” says Mumma. “After games please tell your kids that you are proud of them and you enjoyed watching them play. Baseball will suck the life out of a growing child because it is a game of failure.
“They do not need to get into the car after the game and hear how they went 0-4 and made two errors. Our coaches will handle that part of it and very rarely will it be in the heat of competition or after. We will take care of those types of conversations in practice and training sessions, the correct avenue for learning.”
There are now about 150 players on 12 teams ages 9U to 18U that train and play based out of a facility shared with the Detroit Diamond Jaxx in Warren, Mich., a northern suburb of Detroit.
High school players participate in six tournaments during the summer, finishing by Aug. 1. The younger kids play in eight and are done by July 1.
“Kids need to be kids and have a summer,” says Mumma. “Rest time — physically and mentally — is important for them.”
The season generally begins when the weather breaks in April.
Baseball Utility Travel has won some trophies. But that’s not the important thing.
“It’s not a prestige thing for us,” says Mumma. “Our ratio of practice to games is 2:1.
“(Beginning in late October), we have 70-80 training sessions and 35-40 games.”
Mumma is one of the lead instructors on a staff of 17 — all being former college or professional players.
“We have no parent coaches,” says Mumma. “All our guys coach all the teams in the winter. We train in big groups.
“All of our coaches) has something to offer.”
Joe Small, a former assistant at Macomb Community College, has come aboard to coordinate defensive concepts and do administrative work.
When Mumma was with the Blue Jays, minor leaguers participated in Baseball 101 class room sessions.
That’s when Mumma realized how much could be taught about the game on a chalk board and has brought that to Baseball Utility Travel.
“In these non-competitive situations, kids learn so much better,” says Mumma. On the field — with so many other players and coaches around — some might have a tendency to “clam up.”
To get messages across to his players, Mumma and his staff have brought in many guest speakers — players, coaches, sports psychologists, nutritionists and more.
On Monday, April 13, more than 100 participated in a Zoom video conference featuring former big league pitchers Zach Jackson and David Purcey, inventor of the Towel Trainer.
While the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has players and coaches physically apart, Mumma wants his players to be ready when baseball resumes.
“We give them things to do at home,” says Mumma. “Throwing the ball is the best way to get your arm feeling good again. Your body wants the consistency of work.
“Make sure you’re throwing.”
Not just about balls and bats, Baseball Utility Travel is also a charitable organization. Mumma says the group annually spends $25,000 to $30,000 in the community. This is done through such deeds as delivering Thanksgiving meals, Christmas gifts or paying the rent for families who lost their home in a fire.
“I always wanted to do that,” says Mumma. “We have the power of numbers. But it’s just a helping hand.”
Baseball Utility Travel celebrates with (from left): Chuck Rinehart, Broc Riggs and Brad Mumma. Rinehart is the father-in-law of organization founder Mumma.
Brad Mumma talks to Baseball Utility Travel players via Zoom conference. The graduate of LaPorte (Ind.) High School and Western Michigan University founded the organization in the suburbs of Detroit. (Steve Krah Photo)
Fraser, Mich.’s Mumma family (from left): Max, Rose, Madelyn, Bradley Jr., Ellie and Brad. Baseball Utility Travel was founded by Brad Mumma as a way to lead player and human development.