Seeing David Ross grab Mike Napoli’s beard after Napoli’s two-run homer in the bottom of the first against the Yankees Sunday night had me waxing nostalgic to 14 years ago.
There we were on the outfield grass before another game, a ragtag bunch of blue-collar collegiate baseball players stretching out — by playing Duck, Duck, Goose, of course. It was an actual part of our pre-game ritual on the Salem State College baseball team.
“GOOSE!” If we heard it, and were tapped on the head, we wanted to chase down our teammate like a flyball. It got competitive. But we laughed the whole time. We still laugh non-stop when we get together every now and then.
You know, looking back at this, I think we won most of our games right then and there in the pre-games.
After all, we had to have either freaked out our opponents so badly into playing with fear, or, perhaps just the opposite – got them thinking we were a bunch of idiots who didn’t take things seriously; and hence, they let their guards down.
Plus, it got us loose. We never took ourselves too seriously.
Whatever the formula, we ended up winning 26 games that year, won the league title had an All-American and led the nation in home runs per game.
The point here, and this has long been debated around successful ballclubs, is that team chemistry does matter. I’ve been through it. We were connected that year more than any other, from the Duck, Duck, Goose games, to actual baseball games, and even off the field. The bus rides were a riot (even if Coach nixed the idea of watching “Bull Durham” when Susan Sarandon came into the flick). Heck, we even went down with the ship together during our Florida trip (violating curfew concerns).
Bottom line – we liked each other. We trusted one another. Just like the 2013 Red Sox do.
For them, it’s the beard-grabbing, helmet-punting type of stuff. For us, it was making the pre-game outfield ritual look like kindergarten recess.