Craig Massey: Florence Y'all' team dad aims for 1,000 career hits

Craig Massey: Florence Y'all' team dad aims for 1,000 career hits


Craig Massey was in grade school in Jackson, Tennessee some 26 years ago, but he knew what he wanted to do.

“I was 9 years old, and I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete,” the Florence Y’alls’ infielder/designated hitter said. “I thought about football, too; I was kind of a late grower, though. Baseball just made the most sense.”

It still does.

Massey’s 35 now, and he’s in his third season in Florence. He’s the oldest player on the team.

Just don’t call him Grandfather.

“I would say I’m just the dad of the team, not quite the grandpa yet. They just call me ‘Dad’ or ‘Pops’,” Massey said.

Massey is getting closer to the 1,000-hit milestone. In 10-plus professional seasons – all in independent leagues – Massey has 910 hits, 416 runs batted in, and a .305 batting average. This season’s numbers as of Tuesday: 29 hits – including four doubles, a triple, a home run, 14 RBI and a .272 average.

Massey is content that he likely won’t play in the major leagues.

“I’m fine with that,” he said. “It’s a good time; I’m still playing baseball. It’s more guys caring about each other. Everything happens for a reason.” 

Listen to Y’alls manager Chad Rhodes talk for about 10 seconds, and you’ll think he wouldn’t mind having 35, 55 or 135 players like Massey.

“He brings over 3,000 (at-bats) and over 12 years of experience at a high level,” Rhodes said. “He’s always grinding; he’s going to hustle out infield knocks.”

64 rejections

Massey grew up in Jackson, Tennessee (population 67,319) and Bells, about 18 miles west-northwest of Jackson. He and his friends played whatever sport was in season.

“Growing up in Jackson, I lived in a cove,” Massey said. “Luckily … all the neighbors in the cove had boys and kids around my age.

“We made all the fields in the cove – basketball courts, football fields, baseball fields. We did everything outside ‘til our parents made us come in.”

Baseball was his favorite sport.

“I was hitting at 3,” Massey said. “I loved hitting, I loved the competition. I enjoyed embracing the challenge.”

Massey’s challenges were just beginning. After graduating from Crockett County High School (Alamo, Tennessee) in 2007 and playing college baseball at Bethel University (McKenzie, Tennessee) and Faulkner University (Montgomery, Alabama), from 2007-2011, Massey believed he could play professionally.

The problem was that nobody else did. 

No major league team drafted him. For two seasons, Massey worked out and went to open tryouts with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins and a few Frontier League teams.

“I like to say I got told ‘no’ 64 times until I heard ‘yes’,” Massey said.

A world tour

In 2014, the ‘yes’ came from 1,074 miles west of Bells – the Santa Fe Fuego of the Pecos League signed him.

The best Massey can remember, his first hit was a single between third base and shortstop. He finished with 113 hits that year, the most in any season.

“At that point, I wanted to say I played one year of professional baseball,” Massey said.

Massey’s world tour included stints with the Frontier League’s Trois-Rivieres Aigles in Canada and the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League. He enjoyed living in other countries, but his wife Shelby couldn’t go to Australia because of her job as a dental hygienist.

“I jokingly say if my wife would’ve been able to go with me, I don’t know if we would’ve come back,” Craig Massey said.

Massey signed with the Y’alls for the 2020 season, which was later cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He went to the now-defunct Southern Illinois Miners in 2021 and returned to Florence in 2022.

“It’s nice,” Massey said of Northern Kentucky. “I like how you can drive 10, 15 minutes and be out in the country, out in nature, or you can drive 10, 15 minutes and be in the city.”

Always a Y’all

The Masseys have been married six years. They have two children – a 3-year-old son Griffin and 2-year old daughter Emma.

“We went to church together,” Shelby Massey said. “I’ve known him since I was 4 years old. I always had a crush on him.”

The Masseys’ Christian faith is important – Craig says Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”) and the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are his favorite Bible passages, and he leads a team prayer before each game.

Shelby Massey played softball at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee. She makes it to about one Y’alls game a month, including last Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Lake Erie Crushers.

“He takes (the losses) harder than I do,” she said. “He likes to win; even if he has a good game and he loses, he’s not happy.”

When the Y’alls (11-20 as of Tuesday) are on the road – their seven-game swing included three games in the Chicago suburbs against the Windy City ThunderBolts, three against the Joliet Slammers and one with the Schaumburg Boomers – Massey checks on his business, Massey Athletics, a youth training facility in Alamo, studies the team’s statistics or streams movies and TV shows. (His favorites are “anything Marvel.) 

Massey knows he’s on the back end of his baseball career but doesn’t dwell on it. 

“I just try to enjoy every moment I have and be grateful,” he said. “I ain’t playing for anybody else. I will retire a Y’all.”


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