Column: Comparing the stars of Missouri baseball to the titans of the rap game

Baseball beat writer Elliot Bauman imagines if notable faces from the team were rappers
Kendrick Lamar: courtesy of Kim Metso, Wikimedia Commons. Tanner Houck: courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

As Missouri baseball’s season begins Friday, players Tanner Houck, Brett Bond, Trey Harris and Brian Sharp, along with new head coach Steve Bieser, are looking to impress on the field. But how do their personalities compare to some of the top emcees? If these Mizzou Tigers were rappers, who would they be? And, more importantly, what does that say about them?

RHP Tanner Houck = Kendrick Lamar

Let’s make a few things clear.

First, Kendrick Lamar is the most technically and creatively gifted rapper of our generation, and the competition is not even close. What the fiery MC from Compton is to the rap game, right-handed pitcher Tanner Houck is to Mizzou. An undisputed top talent and the crown jewel of the Mizzou baseball program, Houck is a Collegiate Baseball and PerfectGame.com preseason All-American, top draft prospect and, like Lamar, in a whole other realm of talent when compared to his peers.

Not only is Houck poised for a strong junior campaign, but he has also been performing at a high level as long as he has been on campus. His freshman season, Houck pitched 100.2 innings and struck out 91 batters on his way to a unanimous Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team selection, chosen by Collegiate Baseball. Like Houck, Lamar burst onto the scene with no hesitation.

In Lamar’s debut in the spotlight, he released a Grammy-nominated album, declared himself king of hip-hop, and hasn’t looked back since. His sophomore effort, To Pimp a Butterfly, was hailed by critics and fans alike as one of hip-hop’s best projects in decades.

Like Lamar, Houck has only improved since his first opportunity to shine. Last year, Houck got his ERA down to 2.99 and struck out 106 batters while pitching an SEC-leading 105.1 innings. In the same way that Lamar has never had a disappointing album, Houck has yet to have a disappointing season.

Both Houck and Lamar are alphas. They are the best in their field and, while they may not overtly flaunt their dominance, they know how dominant they are and demand respect from their peers.

Catcher Brett Bond = Drake

Every team needs a face, but sometimes the face of the team is not necessarily the most highly-touted prospect or the most successful athlete. Junior catcher Brett Bond is this team’s face, even if he does not come with the same accolades possessed by Houck.

Similarly, Drake, a controversial character with neither the skills or accolades of Lamar, is the face of hip-hop. In part, this is due to his commercial success, but the real reason Drake has been deemed the face of modern hip-hop is simply because he acts like it.

Bond is one of the veteran players on the squad, and he carries himself with pride and confidence. This swagger, like Drake with hip-hop, has turned him into one of the faces of the program. Bond is arguably Mizzou’s most talented position player, but he is a leader on the team because of his unique combination of skill and leadership abilities that allow him to be the team’s leader without being the most talented player.

Lamar is never going to be the artist to represent the genre, even if he is the most skilled. That is Drake’s role to take up. Likewise, Bond is the guy for Mizzou, and he knows it.

OF Trey Harris = Chance the Rapper

Baseball, like the music industry, is hard.

There is a lot of time to think during a game and because of this, it is easy to get bogged down by past failures and the monotonous nature of the sport. That is why it is so important to have a spark plug, an energetic player always willing to boost his teammates’ morale.

This is the role junior outfielder Trey Harris plays on Missouri’s baseball team, and it’s the same role Chance the Rapper plays in hip-hop.

In both athletics and hip-hop, emotion is often viewed as a weakness. Harris and Chance do not buy into this concept at all, however. Each has a photogenic smile that they flash on the field and the stage that energizes teammates and fans alike.

Chance does more than just smile, however. During this year’s Grammys, Chance won three of the prestigious awards out of seven nominations. Likewise, Harris isn’t just out there to have a good time. He can ball.

Harris has made only two errors in 106 games played during his career. He has also consistently been at the top of the leaderboard in extra base hits. Overall, Harris is a shining light on the roster and a productive player on both sides of the ball.

1B Brian Sharp = Migos

The latter part of 2016 and early 2017 was good to both first baseman Brian Sharp and Migos. Sharp hit a team-best .478 and had a .980 fielding percentage during fall ball while Migos released “Bad and Boujee” and starred in an episode of the Emmy-winning series “Atlanta.” Both Sharp and Migos are hot commodities, having thrown together a streak of hits—literally in Sharp’s case—that has required us to pay attention.

However, neither Sharp nor Migos have completely emerged into the spotlight. Both are ready to explode, but it will take the same effort over a longer period of time for them both to establish themselves. We need more evidence before we come to a consensus that they are the top players in their respective fields.

Mizzou fans and coaches are excited for the potential Sharp has displayed, just like hip-hop fans are excited for the future of the Migos. Certainly, if both can remain consistent with their recent productions, they will be the stars of the future. For now, though, we need a bigger sample size from Sharp before we proclaim him as the next big thing.

HC Steve Bieser = Jay-Z

In sports and in hip-hop, the concept of generations is a talking point. Every generation has a distinct sound and style of play.

But some members of older generations transcend the concept itself. Head coach Steve Bieser, like Jay-Z, is one of those people.

Bieser graduated from Southeast Missouri State in 1989 and has been playing or coaching baseball ever since. Similarly, Jay-Z has been one of hip-hop’s top emcees for nearly three decades. Jay-Z and Bieser both hold the roles of teacher and leader. They are above everyone else; they are the veterans that have no direct competition and, therefore, no reasons to withhold their immense wisdom.

Because of his wisdom and transcendence of generation, Bieser is the Jay-Z of the Mizzou baseball program.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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