Re-Post: Crown College Baseball: Under The Inspirational Leadership of Coach Gmetro
Creating a Family, Beyond the Game of Baseball.
Here at Legends on Deck we strive to write about the unique baseball stories that most fans want to read about. Baseball is an amazing game that has so many levels to it that even if its High School to the Professional level, there are so many great people involved in the sport that lives are being affected in a positive way every day.
A few weeks ago, I ventured out with my oldest son Christopher to Winter Haven, FL to check out the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational and watch the Crown College baseball team compete.
Crown College is a Christian University that sits in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota and has approximately 1200 full-time and part-time students enrolled each year.
I was drawn to this team a year ago when I met outfielder David Cruz. He is a very humble kid who allowed me the opportunity to share his inspirational journey here on Legends on Deck.
Cruz invited us up from our home in Southwest Florida and I have to say that my son and I came away not only impressed by the talented ball players, but by the way the team is led.
Head Coach Michael Gmetro is a coach that you want your kids to play for. Not only is his approach to the game very professional, but he, along with his assistant coaches, have all the players eyes and ears on them at all times, in a way that you can see the great relationships that have grown during his tenure.
My son Christopher was welcomed as the honorary bat boy for two games, and the way each player and coach treated him, it was a direct result of how Coach GMetro has instilled his positive demeanor onto the program.
Coach Gmetro was a successful baseball player in his early days in Texas, and it earned him an opportunity to receive a full scholarship to play baseball at New Mexico State University as a catcher. Gmetro was also awarded the NCAA Division 1 student athlete award three times.
He didn’t pursue playing professionally, because of other plans set forth in his life. His journey did take him on a new path and prior to his time at Crown College, he chose to go into ministry which he served as an Associate Pastor in the inner city of Detroit. “Doing Urban Ministry for seven years in Detroit, I just had a passion to love on people, encourage them and to help them to grow spiritually,” Coach Gmetro shared with me.
The next step in his life would allow him to utilize the same tools he learned in ministry by bringing it to the baseball diamond, “Here at Crown College, I love seeing these guys come together as a family, seeing them get closer to the Lord, and get better athletically. It has been an honor and privilege leading these young men in their every day lives.”
He also shared with me what led him to wanting to be a coach, “Playing at New Mexico State, I just loved the game, and I was taught by incredible coaches, like Gary Ward and Rocky Ward, and under their tutelage I really learned a lot about the game.”
[pullquote]Our biggest strength on this team is our leadership. To watch these guys care for each other and encourage one another is priceless. ~ Coach Gmetro[/pullquote]
His arrival as the head coach has been a huge blessing to the program and that sentiment was shared to me by four seniors on the squad, as they recounted the impact that Coach Gmetro has had on their lives, on and off the field.
Right fielder Dave Cruz, who is originally from Staten Island NY, and playing in his fourth season for Gmetro, shared his journey with the coach, “Over the years, I feel like I’ve tried to come back a polished player from the year before and through hard work and many sacrifices, and I feel that it has paid off and prepared me for what is the next chapter in my life. I know that as long as I remain focused on the goals before me, that all will be good. That is a great testament to playing for Coach Gmetro, which has been nothing but amazing, as he has poured into my life spiritually to the point that if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am at with my relationship with God. Coach allowed me to grow as a man and as a player.”
Second baseman Parker Lippold, who is a native of Phoenix, AZ and already a graduate and in his Masters program added “I am kind of unique on the team because I also play on the Golf team and Coach G is also the golf coach and we have been very successful on that side winning two conference titles under his helm, so I get to be with him a lot and he has become a great leader, a mentor and a huge influence in my life.”
The catcher and general on the field, Luke Meyers, who reigns from Wilmington, OH, had a different experience from the start, “When I arrived here, Coach G and I had a rough start, but it became clear to me that this is where God wanted me to be and since we have built a great partnership. I think now the only things we can’t agree on is, who is better, the Michigan Wolverines or the Ohio Sate Buckeyes.”
Center fielder Harry Ballantyne, a native of Lakeville, MN, looks at Coach Gmetro as a great father figure, “Coach G has helped me not only with on the field stuff, but also with things off the diamond, like also relationships. He always has an open door policy and easy to talk to. With baseball he has helped me with my skills to remain focused and ready to go each day regardless of the outcome, even if I have a good or bad day.”
Coach Gmetro has created a different type of culture rarely seen these days, as he has taken the importance of life and instilled it into the game with God as the leader and the team has responded positively, while embracing all that the coach has given.
“The team is a family and it really shows. They embraced me from day one and I know that after I leave here I will have life long friends/brothers,” says Lippold.
“The last four years we as a team have gone through a transformation from an unsuccessful team to now a competitive team and that is a tribute to how good Coach Gmetro is at bringing in the right people with the talent and right personalities to gel as a unit. Looking back at the development of the program, we have made it our goal to change the culture of baseball at Crown College and make it something special and I know we have achieved that,” added Meyers.
“Family was one of the main things that Coach has constantly preached to the team. He has shared with us that games are win and lose in the clubhouse and that in order for us to win, we need to become more of a family and create a brotherhood,” shared Cruz.
“I feel that Coach G has created a great atmosphere on our team, from bringing in the right guys with his recruiting, being a very personable, knows how to relate to young guys and understands the game enough to share with us his great experience of playing Division 1 baseball,” says Ballantyne.
Coach Gmetro has also given great credit to his coaching staff as he knows that leadership just doesn’t come from the top alone, it has to trickle all the way down through those that can also be inspirational leaders to the players.
“When you trust guys to do their job they really rise to the occasion, and I do trust my coaches, because these guys are like brothers to me, and have just as big an impact on these players lives as I can. We really stress highly about being a mentor, being a leader, and my coaches do a great job inspiring our guys and I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with them and their expertise, its been an amazing help to me,” shared Coach Gmetro.
Meyers agreed with Coach G, “With our coaching staff it is great to have different perspectives to talk through various situations. They have all become a vital role in the success of our program. The team really thrives off of the different personalities.”
Lippold added, “My experience with other coaches has always been getting yelled at for not doing the right things, but when I arrived at Crown, I noticed right away the culture that Coach G created, it is the opposite, as it is very encouraging and has made a difference in my attitude and our whole team.”
“We have a fantastic coaching staff who have also helped me with my game, like one big family,” says Ballantyne.
Cruz sums it all up, “Our coaching staff has done a tremendous job of adding experience and wisdom to our young ball club. They have devoted their time from their families and priorities, to help us all grow as ball players and as well as men of God.”
This team is full of leaders that have not only learned to lead on the field, but will one day have the same opportunity to give back as Coach Mike Gmetro has done, and because of the great culture he has created at Crown College, these young men of God, will go out into the world and make a difference in whatever journeys they ultimately choose. Having a coach that cares as much as Gmetro does, is a true blessing to have in any college sports program. He is raising up the next game changers.
After the doubleheader was completed, which Crown split with Carelton College, Coach Gmetro brought the team together and presented my son with the first game ball of the season for doing a great job as the teams bat boy. That act of kindness left a huge impression on me, that this great man understands that baseball is a game, but mentoring is how the game is truly won. As a father and coach of little league, I understand that mentoring is truly important. I truly appreciate how Coach Gmetro welcomed my son and made him feel a part of the Crown College Baseball family.