Missouri baseball’s new student manager is a cut above most volunteers at other programs around the country.
Of course, it took a little pride-swallowing for Bieser to make the move.
Bieser made the 1997 Mets out of spring training as a reserve outfielder, but he was sent to the minors midway through the season and, after the club traded for McRae a month later, never suited up with the big-league club again.
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“I just remember Brian was the reason I got sent to Triple-A,” Bieser joked Thursday with reporters.
Clearly, there are no lingering hard feelings.
“Obviously not, if he’s on my staff,” Bieser said with a smile.
McRae, who spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach at Park University, is working toward a bachelor’s degree in social psychology. He has roughly 42 hours remaining, depending on how many credits transfer to Mizzou.
“I should be a year or year and half away from my degree,” McRae said.
MU’s McArtor Baseball Facility, where McRae will spend roughly four days a week with the Tigers during the fall until practice starts after the first of the year and he’s there daily, also will become something of a classroom for McRae.
“The basics for this first year is just to learn as much as possible and understand what we can do with the players we have here to make them better and fulfill their potential,” McRae said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be in this conference. The SEC is the best conference in college baseball.”
McRae only knew Bieser in passing from their time together in the Mets’ organization and later through his role as general manager of the KC Sluggers youth baseball program.
He reached out when Bieser after his was hired July 1 and the arrangement progressed from there.
Bieser believes there’s value in having a guy with McRae’s big-league experience and family pedigree — his father, Hal, played 19 big-league seasons and also managed the Royals from 1991-94 — around the program.
McRae, who worked as a broadcaster and analyst after his playing career, won’t be able to coach on the field or recruit off campus, but he can develop a relationship with the Tigers, offer pointers and interact with recruits during campus visits.
“He can be in the office with us and learn,” Bieser said. “The toughest part that there is about this is the compliance side of it and making sure that you’re doing things properly.”
McRae said he visits Columbia regularly to attend Mizzou football and basketball games.
“I’ve been coming here since 1982, when I was getting recruited here to play football,” he said.
Ultimately, McRae, a Blue Springs graduate, committed to Kansas — only because he thought he’d be allowed to play football and baseball, he said — but wound up signing with Royals out of high school instead.
“When you look at a guy that’s been successful and played in the major leagues, but he still wants to go back and get his undergrad degree, that speaks volumes,” Bieser said. “That speaks volumes to our players. … He’s showing the importance of that degree.”
The Tigers were on the short list of programs McRae said he would have considered working with, because of its proximity to Kansas City — where he has a daughter, Addison Shea, 9.