Practicing family Law
Third-generation player coming into his own at BYU
Adam Law’s time has come.
The junior third baseman from Brigham Young University is the latest in a long line of Law family members to make a splash on the diamond as he leads the Cougars in hitting and plays a formidable third base.
Law’s grandfather Vernon pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1950-67), winning the 1960 Cy Young Award. His father, Vance, who is currently a hitting coach in the Chicago White Sox organization, played in the Major Leagues for 10 years and served as BYU’s head coach between 2000-12. Two of Law’s uncles and two of his brothers also have played baseball for the Cougars throughout the years.
The family ties to the sport are strong, and Law has worked hard -- and gleaned knowledge from his grandfather and father -- to continue the legacy.
Law grew up hanging around the baseball field as his father coached the local high school, and eventually the Cougars.
While he was a three-sport athlete at Provo High School, Vernon Law volunteered to be the pitching coach for his high-school team when Adam was a junior.
“I honestly think why he wanted to be the pitching coach was to be closer to me and kind of help me along the way,” Adam Law said.
The patriarch of the Law family -- father to six, grandfather to 31 and great-grandfather to 30 -- would hit Adam shopping carts-full of balls, and then toss him batting practice.
“At that time, he was in his late 70s and out there in the heat of the day,” Law said. “He would hit me ground ball after ground ball, and tell me stories about when he coached in Japan and how they do things over there.”
Vernon Law, now 83 years old, still throws batting practice to his grandson in the offseason, or if Adam’s father isn’t available to throw.
“He hasn’t thrown in about a month because my dad was preparing to go to spring training and wanted to get his arm in shape, but he would come down and watch early in the mornings,” Adam Law said.
He’s still really accurate and has a strong arm. If I hit four or five balls in a row, he’ll change speeds on me or throw a slider or paint the black part of the plate, and kind of chuckle to himself. After about 45 minutes, he’ll say, ‘Adam you’ve had your fun, now I’m going to have mine.’ Then, he really starts mixing it up on me.”
Law enjoys bonding with his grandfather and listening to his stories about Hall of Fame players.
“It’s a good bonding time and a great time for me to learn about what he calls the glory days of the game,” he said. “He talks about facing Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and all of those classic players.”
And, Vernon Law is ready to go if Adam needs more reps during the season.
“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they have a weekend when they get rained out, and he calls and says, ‘Papa, can you throw batting practice to me?’ " Vernon Law said. “He doesn’t want to miss a day.”
It’s pretty tough to miss a day of baseball in the Law family, and Adam has soaked up all the knowledge and experience he could from his elders, whether it was breaking down at-bats or learning situational tactics.
"My dad has taught me the most about the game in general,” Adam Law said. “He was a position player like me, and really knows the ins and outs of the complete game, not just the pitching side. I attribute my knowledge of the game to him. We talked about baseball around the dinner table and what types of things you should do in certain situations.”
Vance Law began coaching his son when Adam was a freshman in 2009. Adam had just seven at-bats, and barely played.
“I was a late sprouter, and didn’t grow until I was 16 or 17 years old,” Adam Law said. “When I came to BYU as an 18-year-old freshman, I was probably as physically mature as a 14- or 15-year-old.”
Then, Law went on a two-year mission to Zimbabwe as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While he didn’t play much baseball, Law learned two different languages native to Zimbabwe and immersed himself in the culture while spreading the gospel. He learned the importance of focusing on people and relationships, rather than material items.
And, during the mission, Law physically matured and caught up to other players on the collegiate level. When he returned as a sophomore for the 2012 season, Law played in all but three games for the Cougars as a middle infielder, batting .221 with 14 RBI on the season.
“I played quite a bit as a sophomore but was really still in a transition phase of getting to know baseball and seeing good pitching,” Law said.
After the 2012 season, a big change came for the Law family. Vance was fired as BYU’s head coach after 13 seasons and Mike Littlewood -- a former BYU player -- was hired to take over the program.
“The main reason why I came to BYU was to experience playing for my dad, and when that ended after only two seasons I was disappointed,” Adam Law said. “I was upset at the administration and all sorts of feelings went through my mind.
“But then I took a step back along with my dad, and we talked about it. I could look at two ways. I could be mad or I could put it behind me and be the type of person I should be. I accepted the fact my dad wasn’t the coach, and since that decision I haven’t second-guessed anything Coach Littlewood has done.”
Littlewood, who has known the Law family for years, immediately reached out to Vance and Adam.
“Vance and Adam Law were my first two calls when I got the job,” Littlewood said. “They were awesome. It’s a tough situation with Vance getting let go and Adam still being on the team, but there has been 100 percent buy-in from the players with what we’re trying to do.”
Adam Law improved his physical strength and conditioning in the offseason, and played summer ball in Palm Springs, Calif., where he got the reps he needed to step up his game. Littlewood, a former third baseman, moved Law to the hot corner -- a position his father also played.
“He’s a lot bigger and stronger than he was last year,” Littlewood said. “It made sense since our team has two freshman middle infielders who can’t move anywhere else. He’s a team guy and made that move. I think he’s great over there.”
Through 17 games this season, Law is leading the team with a .354 batting average and with 13 RBI, he has almost matched his total from last year.
“I’ve worked hard,” Law said. “Often times, people have talked about nepotism as the reason I’m playing college baseball. I wanted to really go out there and be who I am and work hard, so even Coach Littlewood would know I’m ready to help the team win in any type of situation.”
Littlewood is most impressed with Law’s baseball instincts.
“Adam is like having another coach on the field,” Littlewood said. “His baseball IQ is off the charts. He actually carries his own stopwatch to time the pitchers in between innings himself. He is really one of most heady players I’ve ever coached.
“He’s a great base runner, he knows how to work counts at the plate, he understands many situations,” Littlewood said. “The only thing I have to do with him is position him at third base, and now he is starting to catch onto that.”
Vernon Law also is impressed with the strides Adam has made, and believes his grandson has a bright future in the sport.
“All of them [boys in the family] have been good athletes, and I’ve tried to help them along and see if they could make something out of it,” Law said. “But, I think this last one, Adam, has got a chance to play professionally. He runs very well, he can steal bases, he’s got a great arm and good glove. He understands the game and has played almost all the positions and knows where to be.”
Adam Law hopes to one day follow in his grandfather's and father’s footsteps on the professional level, but right now he and his teammates are focused on winning. Beginning with a victory against then-No. 2 LSU on Feb. 23, the Cougars have won seven of their past nine games and own a 9-7 record entering a West Coast Conference-opening series at San Diego this weekend.
“I think they’re starting to really believe they can win,” Littlewood said. “The win against LSU was big. That was a tremendous confidence builder. It’s amazing how much confidence comes into play with 18- to 20-year-old kids. There’s a refreshed attitude with these guys. If we can sustain this, it will be a fun season for us.”