As I learned a lot about baseball chatter during the Bearcat’s Conference Championship run, I also noticed several things I think every team must have in order to be successful. Of course there’s talent, dedication, good attitude good coaching, blah, blah, blah, but even with all those things, there’s no way you’ll win without the “must haves.”
Probably the most important thing a team needs is a handshake guy. This is the guy who has the imagination and team knowledge to create a unique handshake for every player on the team. Many times these are an elaborate series of standard handshakes with other actions mixed in. Bow & arrow, shooting a basketball, doing a selfie pose, or maybe something nobody really needs to know what it is. Now in baseball and softball, there’s a division of labor between position players and pitchers so a second handshake guy might be necessary for the pitchers. Probably need a two guys for offense and defense in football.
There are also other handshakes or traditional actions outside of the realm of handshake guy. Stare downs, running football routes to catch a baseball, working on the golf swing with a bat, putting with a bat, and a variety of games where position players relive their little league pitching days and where pitchers fantasize about hitting bombs instead of giving them up. There are imaginary group selfies and photo shoots with some great poses. There’s even a game where two guys peck at each other like chickens but neither lets the other actually touch him. I don’t get that one.
Of course baseball players are very superstitious, so there may be things that need to be done, or at least attempted, every game. The Bearcats had several of these guys. One player tried to sit in the dugout without moving the entire game. No standing up and yelling “get out ball,” and if you hit a bomb and want a high five from him, you have to go to where he’s sitting. Wouldn’t even get up to get a drink, seeds, or go to the bathroom. Not sure about his success rate but it was attempted every game.
You also need a gate keeper or two or three. These are the guys who sit at the end of the dugout and routinely take care of everything that can help the offense. Keeping a collection of bats, in your hands, that have done their jobs, hits, sac. flies, even walks. Ground out and pop up bats are kept separate. These guys can also have a routine for pitching changes by the other team, kinda like handshake guy. My favorite is a chain of guys rowing a boat.
Bullpen games are very important and there’s a variety of equipment that can aid in the creation of games. A mini-tramp and weighted balls are extremely entertaining. In case you haven’t seen a set of weighted balls lately, they’re not just heavy baseballs anymore. They’re more like squishy stress balls that vary in size and weight. These balls can be bounced off the mini tramp. You can go for height, or you can attempt to catch your partners bounce behind your back. You can also alternate slamming the ball into the tramp without catching it, kinda like reverse volleyball, and go for a longest streak.
You must have a bullpen catcher who, even after the reliever throws 4 pitches completely out of the bullpen, tells the pitcher he has good stuff and tells the coach he’s ready to go. I’m betting this guy prays a lot.
There’s gotta be a guy on the team everyone hates. Now, they don’t really hate him, but the team is unified behind this hatred. He could be anyone, a freshman who was probably an only child, they guy who never shuts up, the dumb guy, the lazy guy who never seems to do any field work, the guy who always talks crap, the guy who is constantly on everyone’s case but never sees the field, the guy who is the team’s mother, the guy who always forgets something on a road trip, and the guy who breaks the bus bathroom rule of #1 only. All these guys are necessary too but only one can be the guy everyone hates.
Gotta have a guy who does all the imitations. Now keep in mind, imitation is the highest form of flattery so not everyone gets imitated. Those who do? At the top of the list are all the coaches. If nobody does an imitation of the coaches, may as well pack it in cuz you’re going nowhere. From there it’s all the pitchers and the batting stances. Exceptional imitators will get the trainer, some bench guys and maybe even a freshman or a fan. Annoying opponent fans are usually imitated by multiple players but not the imitator himself. Often times the imitator will also be the shadow guy. Shadow guy is most often seen in pre-game warm ups and mainly in the outfield. The guy being shadowed often never knows it’s happening.
The most important thing you need is a head coach who allows all these guys to do their thing. College sports are hard. The endless workouts, long seasons, ridiculous road trips (Kearney, NE for a Tuesday night game), missing class and still having success in the classroom. A coach who lets the team have fun will be competitive. Of course winning is fun but having fun helps you win. It’s the chicken & the egg. Pre-season, The Bearcats were picked to finish ninth. They were not the most talented team in the conference but they worked hard and had fun and that translated into a tight knit bunch of guys who went out and earned a championship.
Now I know you’re wondering, can they do it again without all the guys who graduated? Well last I heard, Coach Loe had the inside track on a top notch, JuCo transfer handshake guy so it’s looking good!