Let me start this off by introducing myself, I am a junior left-handed pitcher at Wagner College — a small Division One school in Staten Island, New York. Throughout my two-plus years here I have had a number of different experiences and I plan on using this series to tell my stories. The first installment of my series covers crowds.
Road trips have different meanings at different points of the season. Being a team from the Northeast where snow is often still on the ground come Opening Day, we have to travel somewhere warmer to start the season. So far I have played all over the country including Florida, Texas, California (twice), and North Carolina to name a few places. Traveling like this has allowed me to experience parts of the country that I would likely never have gone to if it was not for the game of baseball. Easily the coolest location I got to go to was San Luis Obispo, home of Cal Poly. The field was gorgeous and behind the right field line there was a mountain, which I actually got to climb during an off day. However, while scenery is nice to look at and make a place fun to play as a player nothing is better than being the road team in front of a big crowd.
College baseball is great because often times the crowd of full of drunk kids with nothing better to do who show up to the games and get rowdy. Personally, I love nothing more than getting heckled and being to able to silence a crowd. The first big crowd I pitched in front of was at Texas State. I started the game and walked one of the first two hitters. After throwing over to first a few times to prevent a steal, the crowd started to boo me and told me my job was to pitch the ball. I promptly picked the kid off at first, immediately shutting the crowd up.
Some crowds however, are just fun to listen to. We played at Fresno State and their fans were extremely into the game actually doing their homework on many of our players. They knew everything about players including what their parents did for a living and their siblings’ names. In the same game the fans were even getting on the umpire telling him they found his cell phone after a close play at first, claiming they knew it was his because, “It had two missed calls”. Sometimes fans are just creative in a way you never would expect. At the University of South Florida, there was a bathroom in our dugout and if someone used it without closing the door they crowd would begin yelling at him to close the door and wash his hands. It was such a common occurrence apparently that the crowd even had made up a song to the tune of Sweet Caroline that they sang when Sweet Caroline was played over the speakers.
The best part of the road trips I’ve been on so far in my career is easily experiencing playing in front of crowds. Crowds make the game more fun and the pace of a baseball game makes it extremely conducive to heckling. Personally, I love nothing more than getting heckled and being able to silence a crowd but I know for some players it can easily get in their head. Sometimes the crowd doesn’t even heckle and instead just changes the game dynamic and can make even the most serious player laugh. Crowds are an integral part of college baseball and the atmosphere of the college game allows their impact to be felt more than in the MLB.