Tony Vitello isn't the only member of the MU Baseball staff leaving the Tigers. Word has come that Luke Cassis, Director of Operations, is also moving on.
Luke is headed back to Chicago, where he will enroll at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Cassis played middle infield for the Tigers from 1999-2002, became a volunteer assistant coach, and then became Director of Operations in 2005, assisting with the day-to-day operations for the Tiger baseball program.
Long-time fans will remember that Luke spent a couple of years in the broadcast booth alongside Tex Little. His friendship with the players and involvement int he day-to-day activities of the team gave him a depth of knowledge that made him a valuable color commentator alongside The Voice.
■ Cassis knows what he's talking about (Columbia Missourian, March 26, 2004)
Luke Cassis is not shy about criticizing his former teammates. In fact, he gets paid to do it.■ From out of the darkness (Columbia Tribune, March 30, 2001)
Cassis, a former Missouri baseball player and student assistant coach, moved into the broadcasting booth this year, providing the color commentary for Tiger baseball radio broadcasts on KTGR 1580/AM in Columbia.
“I try not to be critical at all, I try to be more positive than anything,” Cassis said. “If somebody messes up or does something bad, I’ll point it out. They know what they should’ve done so it’s not a big deal to say anything on air.”
Cassis finished playing for the Tigers in 2002. A four-year letter winner, he batted .262 with 59 RBIs in his last two years and started 157 games in the infield during his 183-game career.
When his eligibility expired, Cassis moved into the role of student assistant coach, giving help to players and helping with batting and fielding practice.
“At the time, we had 19 newcomers on the team,” Cassis said. “They had never been a part of Missouri baseball, so, more or less, I helped them get acclimated with the program.”
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Missouri played its 24th game Wednesday, and Little said he is amazed how much progress Cassis has made for a broadcaster with no prior experience.
“I think I have had experience playing Nintendo,” Cassis said. “I used to do that all the time when I was a little kid, you know, broadcast the games in my room.”
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Although Cassis spends many afternoons and nights talking about Missouri baseball, he has another part-time job at Johnny’s Beanery, 212 E. Green Meadows Road, where he is a bartender and cook. He graduated in the summer of 2003 with a degree in general studies.
Cassis said his true love is baseball, though, and he has enjoyed his role as a broadcaster, player and coach.
“I would like to play, but I think anything to be on the field; I think coaching would be my choice, but broadcasting is fun,” Cassis said.
Luke Cassis doesn’t remember much about the collision. His teammates and coaches on the Missouri baseball team will probably never forget it
The Tiger junior laid down a perfectly placed bunt during one of MU’s intra-squad scrimmage games last October and hustled down the line. But as he reached first base so did the ball and the second baseman.
It was a violent convergence that left Cassis unconscious for over three minutes - an eternity by knockout standards - as his teammates and coaches waited for him to come out of it and for the ambulance to arrive.
"It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen or been around in college athletics," MU coach Tim Jamieson said. "In baseball you don’t deal with things like that. You don’t deal with people being unconscious for as long as he was. It was a pretty scary thing because you don’t know what’s happening.
"An ambulance came and we didn’t know if he was gonna live or gonna die. We didn’t know what was going on and we didn’t understand it."
Cassis suffered a brain contusion causing him to miss the rest of the fall semester. The injury also forced him to drop out of school because of severe headaches and dizzy spells in the classroom prevented him from concentrating.
"It was kind of a freak thing," Cassis said. "I don’t really remember exactly what happened. Early on ... I might have had some tendencies to be very careful and cautious when running down the line, but that’s all passed now.
"Just yesterday I got hit in the helmet with a pitch so that was good. I don’t have to worry about that any more."
Jamieson credits the collective experience of Cassis’ frightening injury for giving his team a strong mental approach in the face of adverse situations. What could’ve been a career-ending tragedy - or worse - has actually been turned into a positive by the Tigers