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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.

 

Sincerely,

The Benchwarmer

How Jeter’s Retirement Becomes a Numbers Game

Photo is courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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As sports fans, we don’t commonly associate an athlete to their statistics, but more the jersey number that they represent. To take it a step further, football has 7, basketball has 23 and baseball has 42. Some of the most famous jersey numbers in baseball came from the New York Yankees and while that is a testament to their greatness, the closely awaited retirement of Derek Jeter puts more than just the team’s future at shortstop in jeopardy.

 

At the conclusion of the 2014 season, Derek Jeter will officially retire from the New York Yankees and the game of baseball, as you already know. After the incredible career that Jeter has put together, it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that “The Captain” will be a Hall of Famer and have his #2 retired by the Yankees, but once he does, no number from 1 through 9 will ever be worn by a future Yankee ever again.

 

Prior to Jeter’s heroics, the Yankees retired the numbers of Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe Dimaggio (5), Joe Torre (6), Mickey Mantle (7), Yogi Berra & Bill Dickey (8) and Roger Maris (9). That is some pretty impressive company that Jeter will most likely be joining, but it also means that we will never see a single-digit number grace a Yankee uniform ever again. I understand that this is a very miniscule problem that future Yankees will face due to their respect for the game, but if you ask me, it does raise the question of whether or not jersey numbers should still be retired.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about honoring the great ballplayers that made baseball what it is today, but as the game progresses and numbers continue to be retired, what happens when you don’t have enough numbers to field a full roster? I know that is strictly hypothetical and will probably never happen, but just think about it.

 

If we look at baseball 200 years from now, there will probably have been 20 more Miguel Cabreras, 15 more Clayton Kershaws and 3 more Babe Ruths. That isn’t even counting other future ballplayers that will be some of the game’s greatest and will have had their numbers retired as well. The New York Yankees currently have 17 retired numbers (18 after Jeter) and in 100 years, that number will probably double. After another 100 years, chances are that the historic and successful Yankees will have almost 60 numbers retired and unless baseball wants to allow triple-digit jerseys, these teams, especially the Yankees, are going to have to find a different way to remember and honor the past. I enjoy seeing Bob Feller’s #19 hanging up at Jacobs Field (Don't correct me, it will ALWAYS be Jacobs Field) as much as the next Indians fan, but once these teams run out of numbers, this problem will need to be solved.

 

Chances are pretty good that nobody agrees with me and Major League Baseball already has a plan in place for this, and if they do, good for them. It will be odd to never see a Yankee single-digit number ever again and maybe this will be an issue in a few hundred years, but as for present day, let’s just lean back, enjoy our peanuts and recognize the greats that brought baseball to its current promise land.

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