Assistant volleyball coach dies at 36

Minnesota assistant volleyball coach Maurice Batie died of cardiac arrest Wednesday night while playing basketball at the University Rec Center. He was 36.
An athlete his whole life, Batie was an assistant for the Gophers the past four seasons. He followed head coach Mike Hebert to Minnesota from Illinois in 1996.
The news shocked the players, who saw Batie at a volleyball practice just a few hours before he died.
“He was an incredible, incredible person,” said Minnesota’s Nicole Branagh. “He radiated joy and happiness and you could see it through his smile.
“He really cared a lot about the game, and a lot about the players. He had an instinct for volleyball and life.”
If it were not for Batie, the All-American Branagh might have never joined the Gophers. Batie was Minnesota’s recruiting coordinator — Branagh was one of his prize recruits.
But his importance as a coach didn’t stop there.
During the Gophers’ run towards the NCAA sweet 16 this past season, Hebert credited Batie with taking the Gophers’ blockers under his wings.
The improved blocking game was one of the main reasons the Gophers finished with 15 wins in the Big Ten, the most in school history.
A native of Chicago, Batie is a graduate of Central College in Iowa. He was the first in his family to attend college. Batie also lettered three seasons as a wide receiver on Central’s football team.
He joined Hebert at Illinois before the 1994 season. The two have shown more than just a work relationship, becoming good friends over the years.
“Quite simply he’s one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met,” Hebert said. “He impacted so many people in such a positive way.
“What struck me most was his incredible integrity.”
Batie is survived by his wife Melissa, and their child Madison, who was born last December. Batie didn’t make the trip with the team to Penn State in the NCAA tourney so he could be with his family.
A memorial and celebration of Batie’s life has been set for the Sports Pavilion, Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. It’s open to all volleyball fans.

John R. Carter welcomes comments at [email protected]