Pioneers spending summer on mission field

PLAINVIEW – Twenty years ago, Brad Bass all but had his bags packed, ready to spend a summer in Asia touring with an Athletes in Action (AIA) baseball team, combining his love of baseball with mission work.

His plans changed, however, when he was hired in the summer of 1985 to start a baseball program at Texas Wesleyan University. With the pressure of starting a baseball program from scratch, Bass had to stay home that summer.

“I had to back out of the commitment, but I have always known it was something I was supposed to do,” Bass said.

Twenty years late, the head baseball coach at Wayland Baptist University is finally getting a chance to pack his bags. Bass will spend much of the summer in Alaska, coaching a team sponsored by AIA that will play in an NCAA Division I summer baseball league. Bass leaves June 1 for San Jose, Calif., where he will spend 10 days working with his team both on the field and in various outreach initiatives prior to leaving for Alaska.

Throughout the years, Bass has worked closely with AIA, encouraging many of his players to join summer league teams. This summer, three Pioneers will play for AIA teams in various locations. Trey Roberson, a junior outfielder from Lubbock, will play with a team in the New York league, while freshman Todd Jeffress and sophomore Armando Garza, both of Plainview, will travel overseas to play in Europe.

“Coach Bass showed us a brochure. Then he recommended us,” Jeffress said. “We will learn more about God and more about baseball. We will get to see how they play it overseas.”

While Roberson will stay within the state of New York, Jeffress and Garza will play games in France, the Czech Republic and Germany. Garza, who has never been on an airplane, is somewhat apprehensive about flying from here to Atlanta, then two weeks later boarding a plan for Europe. But he is taking it in stride.

“It’s a whole summer in Europe, so that isn’t bad,” Garza said. “And when is the next time you are going to get a chance to play baseball in Europe?”

The players had to raise the money for their trips, more than $4,000 per player. Bass said, however, he has seen many fundraising attempts such as this go off without a hitch.

“If it’s a trip you are supposed to make, the money is going to be there,” he said.

Bass, who is on a 12-month contract at Wayland, was approached nearly two years ago about coaching a team by an AIA administrator who happened to be an old friend. Jason Lester, who is one of the first three players Bass signed at Texas Wesleyan, has been working with AIA since his first summer in college. Lester approached Bass about coaching at a national convention two years ago. After going through the application process, Bass was granted a summer sabbatical by Wayland, freeing him to work with the team in Alaska.

Bass and his team will spend six weeks playing against teams made up of NCAA Division I players. The AIA team will hold devotionals and Bible studies as well as take time to give their testimonies and hand out tracts in the stands after games. They will also spend their off days working on mission projects.

“We probably all have a few things in life that we would like to scratch off the list of things we would want to do. This is one of those things,” Bass said. “This is a long-time commitment that I am finally going to be able to scratch off.”

To top it off, Bass is taking his family with him. He and his wife, Sally, have three kids: Calvin, age 16; Meredith, 15; and Will who is 10. Bass said it will be nice to spend a summer with them, noting that his family has reached the age that everyone is going their separate directions and they don’t get to do many things together as a family.

“We don’t even sit together at church,” Bass, who is a member of First Baptist Church in Plainview, said. “Sally is at the piano. Calvin is with his friends. Meredith is with her friends and Will is with his. I occupy space and hopefully somebody will sit with me at times.

“But this is going to be a summer that we get to spend together as a family, doing mission work.”