The Benchwarmer: Huddle Up

Photo is courtesy of Matt Shock  

Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

I know it may be hard for you to believe, but in my single year of college baseball, there was a time when I truly forgot my place…which was that of a bad player who warmed the bench for a low profile baseball team at a branch campus of The Ohio State University. I mean literally, nobody cared about our team but the guys on the team, a few faculty members, and some of the parents of the guys on the team.


Plain and simply put, the benchwarmer’s place on a team like this is a simple one. Your job is to shut up and support the team. You go through the motions. You show up for every practice. You help the guys get ready for the games. You help the pitcher warm up between innings. And most importantly, when the team gets together for a huddle after the game…you listen to the coach’s speech, put your hand in the middle, and cheer “Mavs” with everyone else. You don’t step out of line…ever.


Well, on one “road trip” to Lancaster, OH, I officially decided that I was done pretending to care about this team.


After sitting the bench all weekend, watching one of my teammates continue his streak of pretty much going 0 for the season at the plate, I decided that my playing time no longer had to do with my abilities on the field. Sure, I may not have been a great hitter, but I like to think that I would’ve hit over the Mendoza line had I been given consistent playing time. I sure as heck knew that I could’ve out performed his .175 batting average. Frankly, if I could remember his name, I would call him out for being such a terrible hitter.


My patience for going through the motions was wearing thin, my rear end was beginning to fall asleep from sitting on the bench so much, and the stupid stadium we were playing in didn’t allow us to chew sunflower seeds in the dugout. (Leave it to the good folks at VA Memorial Stadium to not only bastardize the game of baseball by putting field turf in such a classy old ballpark, but to then ban such an essential item to the game like sunflower seeds just to protect that stupid turf. Seriously, screw you!)


So when Coach Hack called for the team huddle after our game against OU Lancaster, I waited patiently with the others…and waited…and waited. You see, a group of guys (who were the best players on the team and often drank with the coach) were taking their sweet time getting to the huddle.


I can’t tell you what they were doing or for how long they were doing it. All I knew was that I was tired, hot, and was sick of waiting for them to finish whatever it was they were doing that was more important than the team. So I decided that I was headed for the van. I left. No huddle for me, no cheer, I was done.


Of course this ticked off Coach Hack and every other member of the team, all of whom made sure to let me hear about it when they got to the van. I was even sentenced to running four foul poles for skipping the huddle, but the truth is, I never ran them. (In hindsight, I’m really not sure why he didn’t just kick me off the team at this point…it’s not like there was a bunch of baseball to be played, and I’m pretty sure he’d decided that he rather play somebody with a broken leg before he played me…but I digress.) I pretty much made up my mind that I would run them if I was made to do so, but I wasn’t volunteering to run them.


I had also pretty much made up my mind that I wasn’t volunteering anything for this team any longer. Sure I would show up to the practices, I would go through the motions, but I was done working hard in an attempt to increase my playing time…because by this point in the season, that would’ve been a waste of everyone’s time…especially mine.


When we eventually made it to the ORCC Tournament, I sat the bench for the first weekend of games. Then, at the end of the last practice before the second weekend, I flat out asked Coach Hack if he really even needed me for that weekend’s games. He was honest with me and plainly said “no”.


So there it is; I didn’t even travel with my team for the final games of my college career. Not because I was injured, but because I just didn’t give a crap anymore and wasn’t about to spend an entire weekend being somewhere I didn’t want to be.


If I’ve ever given off the impression that I was some awesome teammate through the course of this series, then I must admit that I have misrepresented myself. I may have been at the beginning of the season, but by the end of the season, I really didn’t care to be around anybody on the team any longer. Does that mean that I was just a whiny little turd who was mad that his coach wouldn’t let him play? Probably so. Big deal.


The lesson I learned was that no matter what, you need to finish what you started, even if that finish isn’t what you ever thought or intended it to be.



The Benchwarmer