Empty stands rise up behind home plate, the netting sways and rolls, Van Halen blasts through the speaker system and yet it almost seems like the only thing you can hear is the sound of baseball.
The sounds of the prototypical ball park setting.
The ringing of the aluminum bats, the thud of a broken in glove catching a ball, the crunching of gravel and dirt, the sound the crowd makes when the ball is hit deep and they all rise to their feet, the smell of hotdogs and popcorn in the air and the hush around the crowd when a pitcher is dealing. It all just envelops you. It becomes a mindset all of its own.
This is all that matters. It’s just another day at the office for Belmont baseball head coach Dave Jarvis.
Jarvis is at his place behind the batters cage; arms folded onto the support beam leaned in, watching and observing. Taking care of his flock.
“The best part of coaching for me is the relationship with the players. Watching these guys grow into graduating seniors, and the friendships that I’ve made with players over the years,” said Jarvis.
Having coached for over 30 years, 18 of which have been at Belmont, Jarvis has seen and done it all.
Jarvis was brought in by athletic director Mike Strickland to lead this program in the transition from NAIA into NCAA Division I competition.
Under Jarvis’ tenure he has had:
38 players play professionally, 23 of which played for MLB affliates,
Beat eventual National Champion runner-up Georgia, who was ranked thirteenth in the nation at the time, in Athens in 2001,
Swept National runner-up Vanderbilt last season,
Qualified for the first-ever NCAA tournament birth and garnered the first-ever NCAA Championship win for any program at Belmont in 2011.
In short, Jarvis has helped build this program from the ground up while establishing a winning culture on the field.
“I think God has blessed me in so many ways that if I had chosen my path in life I’d be totally screwed up,” said Jarvis. “I think he has just poured blessings on my head, and helped me find something that I really enjoy doing.”
His success can be traced back to his roots. Having grown up in rural Missouri, all he ever wanted to do was to play sports.
“I’ve been drawn to athletics all my life. It’s always been there, I almost want to say that it’s in my DNA,” said Jarvis.
Jarvis’ father was a boxer during the 30s and the 40s, using that as a way to get out of his neighborhood and as a way to survive and pushing Jarvis to pursue that kind of boxer’s mentality: that toughness and grit.
Yet, it wasn’t just his father who shared the trait with him. Jarvis’ mother grew up in a sod house in the plains of Colorado and possesses the: “spirit of a tough Western woman,” said Jarvis.
“I saw a lot from both aspects of my parents. The nature/nurture if you will, and from that I’ve taken away this sort of, ‘Find a way to get the job done,’ sort of mentality. You don’t quit,” said Jarvis.
Jarvis has a form of quiet confidence you can just see in the way he carries himself. Always under control, watching and stoic, the way a shepherd might watch a flock.
This rugged, quiet confidence is what he has tried to instill into his players.
“We want to be a gritty, grind it out sort of team. We want to be that team that you felt like you fought the whole time when you’re done playing us. We want to embody that never give up mentality. As Coach Jarvis says, ‘Find a way to get the job done’,” said Nick Egli, sophomore catcher and designated hitter.
Jarvis wants to teach his players to be about the work and getting better every day. The process of moving on to the next step, learning from the past to help you make your next step toward the future, toward your goal.
“Keeping the rearview mirror as a minor aspect, and the windshield as the main aspect. Keep what’s in front of you in front, don’t be looking back at what’s already happened,” said Jarvis.
Jarvis doesn’t yell out or bark, he let’s his players’ play and his coaches coach. It’s a very laid back atmosphere for his players. Everyone is cutting up and laughing snagging fly balls, fake pitching, playing leapfrog and of course heckling each other throughout the day.
Jarvis is right in the thick of it too, laughing and joking around right with his players as they practice to the Spotify playlists of 80s power ballads at his request.
“I would say that it is a lot more laid back than a lot of other schools. Not that our coaches aren’t tough on us, but it’s in a laid back atmosphere, and I think that translates well to how we play. That we are able to play loose and laid back no matter the situation,” said Dom Veltri, junior pitcher and outfielder.
It shouldn’t be mistaken that Jarvis doesn’t want his players working hard; he wants them to compete in everything they do, said Veltri.
“The best part is the competition between everyone because it makes all of us better. I mean, we compete in everything whether it’s number of hits, strikes, who can pick up the most batting practice balls, best dance moves, fastest to tie their shoes, I mean anything and everything we compete in, and I think that translates onto the field,” said Egli
This type of atmosphere allows the players the freedom to try different things, to tweak their swing or try a pitch from a different arm angle. It’s all a matter of trust.
“I think the coaching staff here is awesome. They give us the freedom to grow on our own individually. Just the freedom to do things on your own, to go out and experiment with things you’ve wanted to try they let you do that,” said Josh Tubbs, senior relief pitcher.
Yet, as much as Jarvis has been an influence on the field his biggest impact may be in the way he has helped mature his players as men.
“What I really like about coach Jarvis is the fact that he doesn’t just help you on the field but off the field as well. He really makes you a better player and a better person in life,” said Egli.
Tubbs agrees. “Being here for four years, you leave away with not only a degree but a family. That’s exactly what we are one big family. Like, you’re always going to have them down the road no matter what.”
That is what this job is all about for Jarvis. It’s all about making a difference in these young men’s lives.
“I just love people. Especially this age group, 18-22 year old men and these are some of the most formative years in their lives. Hopefully, we keep them safe; we grow them both physically and spiritually in their time here. To send them out as different person, more well-rounded, mature young men,” said Jarvis.
When Jarvis decides to hang up that jersey, he doesn’t want to be remembered for his wins, his losses, or anything for that matter. For him, he is just the next man up in charge of taking care of this program. It isn’t his wins or his losses, it’s the programs. He is just here to be a part of it.
“More than anything else, I’m just a steward for this program at this period and time. I hope that down the road I am looked at as a good steward of this program from what I’ve done and what our players have done not only on the field, but also as men of character as well,” said Jarvis.
For Jarvis, he sees no immediate plans to retire. He plans to take it one day at a time.
So, until then, Coach Jarvis takes his place behind the batters cage once again; arms folded onto the support beam leaning in, watching and observing. Taking care of his flock.
This article was written by Christian Sadler. Photos courtesy of belmontbruins.com.