Winter Garden Squeeze set to bid farewell to 'Doc' — the team's veteran batboy
Mark-David Simmerly has been the batboy for the Florida Collegiate Summer League franchise since the summer of 2015.
| 2:45 p.m. July 6, 2017
WINTER GARDEN His job responsibilities are many.
He arrives an hour early to the ballpark before each game to help with set-up. During the games, he does any number of tasks: from making sure the umpire has enough baseballs to collecting the bat for the home team after a hit, he stays busy — and attentive — until the last out each night.
His name is Mark-David Simmerly, but around Heller Bros. Ballpark, he’s known more simply as “Doc.”
So nicknamed for the initials of his first name — M.D. — Simmerly, 12, has been the batboy for the Winter Garden Squeeze for the past two-and-one-half seasons. Around for all but one of the team’s three-and-one-half seasons of existence, he has become one of the staples of the Florida Collegiate Summer League ball club’s identity.
But, now that a new job opportunity is set to relocate his family to the Lexington, Kentucky, area in the next two weeks, the Squeeze and their veteran batboy are preparing to part ways — and, already, he is missed.
“Doc is always pleasant,” Manager Jay Welsh said. “He always has a smile on his face, and the players love him. That’s all you can ask for in a clubhouse presence from a batboy.”
The opportunity to be the batboy for the summer league franchise came about through chance: Adam Bates, the general manager for the Squeeze, coached Simmerly’s travel ball team when he was 9 years old.
Since he was given a shot to do the job, Simmerly has not disappointed.
“He knows the game and takes care of the umpires with the balls and the water — he just has a feel for it,” Bates said. “He obviously is from a baseball family. You didn’t have to teach him.”
Simmerly is, in fact, from a baseball family. His grandfather, David Simmerly, was a professional scout for the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays. A Winter Garden resident, David Simmerly also played college baseball during his own career and coached high school baseball for many years.
That love of the game was, then, was passed down from grandfather, to father, to son.
“(Mark-David has loved baseball) since he could pick up a bat,” said Mark Simmerly, Mark-David’s father. “His grandfather kind of got him into it. … He definitely enjoys (being a batboy) — there’s no question about it. He loves it.”
As he tells it, Mark-David enjoys getting to know the players and says having the summer gig with the Squeeze cuts down on boredom. He’s got a few favorite players — Squeeze returners Tyler Halstead and Cody Burgess, among them — and said he really appreciates the way the players get along and have fun out on the field.
For Welsh, who is in his second season as the manager for the Winter Garden franchise, his veteran batboy seems to have a good field for his clubhouse.
“It’s not the easiest job and he has a great ability to recognize when one of our guys is maybe having a tough day and he’ll stay away,” Welsh said, adding Mark-David also has been known to chime in during dugout banter with a zinger.
Not a one-way relationship by any stretch, Mark-David is pretty fond of Welsh, as well.
“I like him as a coach,” Mark-David said. “He’s friendly with the guys, and he’s open and fun.”
Mark-David dreams of one day working for Tesla — his love for cars led him and his father to the Coke Zero 400 last weekend in Daytona.
Mark-David has done most of the home games for the Squeeze in each of the past three seasons — some 20 to 25 games a summer — and, during the 2016 season, he did many of the road games. In a recent game, he got the chance to show his younger sister, Anaka, the ropes.
He said has mixed feelings about his family’s looming move, recognizing it as both exciting and bittersweet.
“(I think I’ll miss it here) sometimes — a lot of times,” Mark-David said. “It’s equal. I’m going to miss it here, and I’m going to like Kentucky, too.”
Mark-David’s final game as the Squeeze’s batboy will be at the Florida League All-Star Game July 8 in Sanford — coincidentally, his favorite “away” ballpark. And while Bates said he has settled on a successor, he added the ballclub’s veteran batboy will not be soon forgotten.
“He’s part of the family,” Bates said. “That’s easy.”