April 5, 2013
Army senior catcher Andrew Johnson will author a blog entitled "Catcher's Corner" throughout the 2013 season. Johnson, a two-year letter winner, is serving as one of the Black Knights' co-captains this spring. Check back weekly to follow along with the inside happenings of the Army baseball team.
I'll start this blog off with a small thing that happened that most of you probably missed. So the Yankees came to Doubleday Field last Saturday. Pretty cool day, uneventful for the most part. I caught a ceremonial first pitch from one of their relievers. Last name Riveri, Riviero, something like that.
Ok who am I kidding, I felt like a little kid all day. It was awesome. From the second we woke up to the second I left the locker room that night, I had a smile from ear to ear. The athletic department did a great job setting everything up and it ran about as smooth as we all could have asked for. Everything from lunch with the Yankees, the pregame ceremonies and presentations to the game itself and hanging out with the players was absolutely a dream. I can only hope Mariano Rivera walked away from the mound with 1/100th of excitement that I did after catching his ceremonial first pitch and shaking his hand. The players were down to earth and seemed to be in as much awe as we were. Obviously not true but the experience was special for both sides. It's good to see such highly paid stars still have the humbleness and kindness. We see a lot of athletes today that just don't have that in them anymore and it's sad to see. This Yankees team truly is filled with great people and it all seems to stem from the top, with the Steinbrenner family and Brian Cashman, the general manger. I was honored to be part of it and I truly hope it continues to be a tradition. The fact I got a hit off a major league pitcher is just icing on the cake.
As great as Saturday was, Sunday and Monday did not bring the same fortune. I have to credit Navy for playing its game and controlling the game for most of the series. I think deep down we know we are a better team and we didn't do a good job coming out ready. We were able to rebound with a late inning victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on Wednesday, which will help us get back on track heading to Lehigh this weekend. Our team has a new focus after being beat by Navy last weekend. Lehigh is not getting us at a good time, as we are angry and ready to take it out on our next opponent. Gunnar Carroll stepped up and led us to the final game victory against Navy. Alex Jensen continues to swing a hot bat along with Patrick Mescher, who both had huge hits for us in our win at FDU. Jacob Page used his man child strength and got our first home run. Andrew Flaherty struck out Brett Gardner in the opening at bat of the Yankees game. Brett then signed a ball "To Andrew -Nice Hook" and signed it for him. Brett didn't have as kind words for me as he told me to stop calling changeups and sliders against him. I'll take that as a compliment of my pitch calling.
The tradition embodied by the Yankees organization is very storied and here at Army we also have a strong feeling of tradition. That tradition mixed with the wacky superstitions of baseball players creates a pretty interesting dynamic to the ABF. Here are some of our favorites.
In our locker room you'll find the usual lockers, baseball equipment, showers and nametapes. But what you'll also find are about four sombreros, a transformers mask with sound capability, a hatchet, a WWF wrestling championship belt, a vulture named Herbert, Mr. Potato Head, a sword of a crusader, a Spartan helmet, a Christmas deer sculpture as well as a real life deer skull with antlers. Some can be explained, but most cannot. The sombreros have absolutely no back story, and Herbert and the Spartan helmet have been locker room staples since who knows. Herbert was stolen from us by Navy a few years back and he was put through the worst of treatment by them. They spray painted him and treated him terribly. In an attempt to rescue him, police got involved and our attempt was stifled. But thanks to the brave works of a past athletic trainer, Herbert was returned to his loving family at the ABF and has been rehabbing ever since under the care of our head grounds keeper Billy German. Hopefully Herb will be feeling healthy enough for a late season return this year. It'll be a Derrick Rose type RETURN. The transformers mask was a late season addition last year during a typical locker room dance off. The hatchet goes out every week to the hardest worker and the belt goes to the best individual performance that past week. The sword was left by Holy Cross after our victory over them in last year's championship. The sword has been shoved into an empty crate as if it is Excalibur in the rock. Some players reenact the King Arthur scene almost daily. Michael Sands' approach is to pick up the sword with the rock together and smash it till the sword comes out.
Some of our favorite traditions are the dugout signs during games. It is a way for the dugout to be the pulse of the team when guys are more focused and quiet on the field. This usually comes with the dugout screaming at the player to signal it back for about two minutes before getting a signal back. There are steep consequences for not signaling back. For every signal the dugout will signal their fingers rubbing together as a signal of "cash money". Why cash money? Because Randy Moss pays his fines with straight cash, homie. For a walk we rub our hands together in motion of a doing the dirty work and for hit by pitches we dust our shoulders off, just like Jay-Z. Stolen bases are the best as you motion scooping money into a bag, robbing the bank. Cody Murtle by far had the best one as he would even take his helmet off and scoop up money off the dirt for a solid 15 seconds. Doubles are deuces thrown up over your right eye and a triple is a three thrown over the eye like basketball players do after hitting a three. Homeruns we start throwing cash every, making it rain. Jacob Page got the silent treatment on his homerun, a classic baseball move on someone's first career home run.
The dugout gets rowdy where there are two balls, two strikes and two outs in the inning. Everyone hits the trenches, grabs anything in sight and turns it into any weapon you can think of. Parts of batting tees are thrown as grenades, fungos used as sniper rifles, and people taking cover as indirect fire calls are yelled out. For three balls, two strikes and one out, gophers on the launch pad are spotted and a countdown till lift off precedes the hopefully hit by the batter. If a couple hits are put together the floodgates open and a random faucet head is let loose and the runs come pouring in.
You'll see a mass amount of handshakes throughout the game especially in our infield/outfield line. You'll see diablo's and their routine, the black cobras hissing and touching wrists and team extreme going boom boom. The pitching staff has their own little shindig and many players have ones with other players. I personally have handshakes with my fellow seniors as well as Ryan Levenhagen. Deuces.
Other random things you'll see are NCO hat day and half calf sock Fridays by our pitching staff. Team favorites are our pregame jog to center field where players perform their superstition of choice; mine is throwing down a Michael Jordan-esque dunk all over the dead center outfield wall. At times I pick out a lonely freshman to posterize. This jog is followed by our stretching lines, that in our transition from lower body to upper body we pull off an acrobatic, break dancing, snake up and down the rows where people are known to do handstands, backwards somersaults and about every trick picked up in our military movement class from freshman year. Our head coach once taught the class during his time as an assistant so everyone's best move is a must. If we are in need of a late inning rally, you'll see the typical rally caps but our bullpen will be up in their more than shoulder width power stances or even in a shark tank mill. I was part of the shark tank that won us a game versus Bucknell last year. The bullpen takes full credit.
Our favorite traditions are our ladder drills. There are about a million and two we do. Many have been named after past players for some odd reason or another. We have Flems, Grimes, Pluffs, A-La-Cash, Cheese Rats, Slugados, Porterhouses, Dingas and then Cole Whites are during our high-low stretch. I can only hope one day to have my own ladder drill. Any ideas send them my way. If I'm not good enough to have my picture hung on the wall of fame, I better have a ladder drill to keep my legacy alive. Some other ladder drill favorites are Rumbas with snaps, Dolphins, Bunny hands, Elephants, Stanky Leg, Ali shuffle, Icky, Skiers arms and all, and Roll the Dice. If you come out to our games you'll see players and limbs moving every which way. But trust us it's our way of getting loose. We really are athletes.
The traditions are far and wide and to be honest I don't even understand some of them, but nonetheless I do them as best as I can in respect to my elders of ABF past. If anyone has any ideas for me to leave my mark on the ABF with a tradition I need your help. Also send me any blog ideas, this brain can only pump out so much. Next week's blog is yet to be determined. Possibly a one on one interview with one of Army Baseball's finest, well besides me of course. I hope you all enjoyed this past weekend's festivities and are looking forward to more games this weekend. This begins a long streak of road trips for us but as you all know we are no stranger to that. Again thanks you to the ABF, the athletic department, Mr. Bob Beretta, the Yankees and Boone Logan. Got ya Boone. Oh and thank you Ichiro for letting that ball fall.
Be Big Time,