Senior staff writer
Father/coach Andy Bass and son T.J. Bass face an exciting but bittersweet spring as they get through their last high school baseball season together at Greenwood.
T.J. is a fourth-year varsity player for the Woodmen, and he will continue his career at Taylor University in the fall. His younger brother, Sam, is a sophomore and plays in the infield for the Woodmen.
“We are excited that he is a senior and has the opportunity ahead at Taylor, but we want to savor every moment of this year because we know it’s the last year that we’re together doing this,” coach Bass said. “Having two of your sons in the program at the same time is challenging, but it’s a special feeling to get to spend two and three hours every single day out here with them and all the players.”
T.J. has played a variety of positions, but mostly will be behind the plate this season. He has driven in 50 RBIs in his three previous seasons. He has played first and third and can pitch.
His seasons of playing baseball are a blur.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been three years, and here it is my senior year,” T.J. said. “I look back on my freshman year and I cannot believe my senior year would be here this quickly.
“Baseball has created such a huge bond between us, on and off the field. I realize what he has accomplished as a coach for so many years. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
After games, mom Jenny tells the boys that they played great, but Dad has a tendency to look at their play critically.
“There was a coach at Seymour who gave me the best after-game advice: ‘When you get in the car with them, put on your dad hat,’ Bass said. “That part of it is harder than I thought it would be. Sometimes T.J. will bring something up and then I know it’s OK to talk about baseball.
T.J. wasn’t quite born with a baseball in his hand, but it was close. Soon after T.J. began walking, he would sit in the dugout and watch his dad’s high school practices. When he ate, seated in his high chair, he would hold his fork like he was swinging a bat. When he was 3 he had a Greenwood baseball uniform.
Andy and Jenny took 6-month-old T.J. to his first major league game at Wrigley Field.
As dad tells it, T.J.’s biggest hit came at the age of 4 years in their backyard and with mixed emotions.
“When we were living in our first house we had a glassed-in back patio porch area. He threw the ball up to himself, trying to hit it with a bat and we didn’t think much about. But he hit one – a line drive right through the window and shattered it. One part of me was upset, but the other part of me was ecstatic because he was 4 and old enough the throw the ball up and hit it hard enough to break a window. How do you get upset at that?”
T.J. hit his first home run for the Woodmen, a grand slam in 2016, against Martinsville.
Through the years the family has been to Great American Ball Park, Fenway Park, Busch Stadium, Detroit Stadium and Wrigley Field in addition to several minor league parks.
T.J. came through Greenwood Little League for six years and then began playing travel ball for the Johnson County Jaguars, Indiana Venom, Indiana Bulls and Nitro.
T.J. and Sam have younger sisters, Mary, 10, and Claire, 8, who have developed their own interests. Mary is a cheerleader. Claire has played softball, enjoys playing basketball and soccer but has a passion for riding horses. And Sam is on the swim team and performs in school musicals and dramas.
A graduate of Franklin College, Andy Bass began coaching at Greenwood in 1998.
T.J. and Sam are part of a young team this season after graduating eight players from last year’s squad.
“Last year we had a bunch of great guys; seeing them go was really difficult,” T.J. said. “We have a lot of young guys who need to step up. I’m looking forward to having a big role in getting them to play together as a team. We need to work together as a team and not just as individuals.”
T.J., like his dad, already is a leader.