They are a pair of Michigan alumni, separated by a decade in their time on campus but united by professional baseball, one as a player and the other as an agent.
Chris Getz, a second baseman for the Kansas City Royals, played two seasons at Michigan (2004-05), earning All-Big Ten and All-American (second team) honors before he was drafted in the fourth round by the Chicago White Sox.
Mark Pieper, who graduated from LSA in 1993 with a degree in economics, represents some of the best-known names in baseball, including American League MVPs Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins and pitcher Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. He also represents Getz for the high-powered SFX Baseball agency of Northbrook, Illinois.
Getz says the Michigan connection was “definitely more than a coincidence” when he went looking for a new agent.
“Mark came highly recommended,” Getz recalls. “We sat down and had multiple meetings and it certainly helped that he went to Michigan from my time there and knowing what the school was all about.
“He didn’t give off a perception that many agents do of being slick or the sense of being better than everyone because they represent major league athletes. He’s very down to earth. Our relationship has grown. There’s a lot of trust involved. An agent becomes an extension of you, part of your family.”
Chris Getz (third from left in the third row) with the 2005 University of Michigan Baseball Team.
Bentley Historical Library
Pieper, who earned his law degree at Northwestern in 2000, said becoming an agent was “something I thought I would be good at. It’s a combination of skills: a love of sports, recruiting skills, and building relationships with people.”
Unlike Getz, who was familiar with U-M after growing up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Pieper was raised in a Chicago south suburb where not many students from his high school attended U-M. But the son of Pieper’s dentist wanted to attend Michigan.
“I landed at Michigan with some good advice from my dentist,” Pieper says. “It was a little bit of luck that got me there. I didn’t have strong ties at the time, but I met my wife while at Michigan, and both her parents went there. Now there is a strong family history in Ann Arbor. My kids already talk about going there.”
Getz took a more circuitous route to Ann Arbor, first attending Wake Forest in North Carolina but transferring to U-M when he realized a larger school with Midwestern students was a better fit academically, athletically, and socially.
He says Saturdays in the fall with the “energy and the excitement that the student body has for the football program” stands out as a favorite memory, as does helping the U-M baseball team reach the 2005 NCAA regional after some down seasons for the program.
“It was a pretty exciting time and a great accomplishment to get Michigan back on the path as a reputable baseball program,” he says.
Getz says he now enjoys returning to Detroit with the Royals and “spoiling it” for longtime friends who remain loyal to the Tigers. His ninth-inning single drove home the winning run in the Royals’ 3-2 win on May 2, which meant “a lot of upset friends and families.”
Alex Gordon (right) of the Kansas City Royals congratulates teammate Chris Getz (left) after he made the game winning RBI while playing the Detroit Tigers on May 2, 2012. Kansas City won the game 3-2.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
He is in his third season with Kansas City after having spent part of two seasons with the White Sox, his original team. He was batting a career high .290 before an ankle injury sidelined him in June.
Although Pieper can’t root for a specific major league team, his Michigan connection remains strong. Last fall he took his triplets to their first game at the Big House.
“It brought memories back of being there with my friends and having a good time,” Pieper says. “It’s hard not to think back on your days at Michigan and not think of football Saturdays.”
Getz is not done at Michigan. He has been working at completing his degree in sports management and communications and took classes on campus during the falls of 2006 and 2008. He is a semester short of graduating.
He calls the school “a great place for student-athletes” and notes, “I was proud to be from Michigan and to go to Michigan.”