HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — The Northern Kentucky University baseball team is rolling this year. The Norse players have an infectious demeanor about them.
The team's culture starts with head coach Dizzy Peyton. His philosophy is simple.
“I don’t really do it for the wins and losses. It’s hopefully to help these dudes grow into better young men as we grow on this journey together,” Peyton said.
However, the Norse are winning a lot this year, sitting at first place in the Horizon League. When Peyton was promoted to NKU's head coach two years ago, he made an important decision to build that winning culture.
“After I got done crying because I was just so honored to be in this position, I wanted to get Ryan (Mavriplis) on the website and give him a promotion,” Peyton said.
Peyton hired Mavriplis, who the team calls "Mav," as the special assistant to the head coach and head team manager. Mav has Down syndrome.
"When I told him that, over the phone, he was like 'man, you’re making me emotional,'” Peyton said.
“Being a special assistant to the head coach, that is a special thing that I like,” Mavriplis said.
It all started when he and Peyton roomed together for years when Peyton was the assistant coach and Mav was a team manager.
“You are in a hotel room with another dude for three or four days over a long period of time you get to know each other really well... He’s just another dude and a really important person in my life who just happens to have Down syndrome,” Peyton said.
Peyton said Mav earned the promotion, grinding his way up for about a decade. About 10 years ago, Mav called his shot.
“He said, 'I’m going to be your head team manager,'” Peyton said.
Three years after that, Peyton was in Mav's wedding.
“(Peyton is a) good friend. That’s why I chose him to be in my wedding,” Mavriplis said.
Two friends side by side, doing what they love.
“Baseball is my passion, I love every part of it,” Mavriplis said.
That passion is what makes Mav such a unique asset to the Norse staff.
“None of the teams I’ve ever been a part of has had a ‘Mav’,” junior pitcher, Ben Gerl said.
Mav isn't just along for the ride, he's got a big job.
“One of the things we always talk about is having a good vibe, staying loose. That’s how we play our best ball. He really does a great job of alleviating the pressure... You go to all 38 guys on this team and they will all tell you the same thing, they love him," Gerl said.
For Peyton, having Mav by his side is more than just a team decision: It's personal to his mission.
“To say it fills my heart up with joy would be an understatement. That’s why I do this,” Peyton said. “It helps me be better, and hopefully I am helping them be better.