Bullpen Bond Growing Stronger Over the Summer

Bullpen Bond Growing Stronger Over the Summer

By: Jacob Janower

Pitcher Daniel Bies (Gonzaga) was talking with his summer roommate, outfielder Grant Witherspoon (Tulane), when he learned of a tradition that is done when Witherspoon comes to bat for the Green Wave.

“He said that at Tulane people will chant ‘Spoon’ and they say that when he goes out there because he is a big name,” Bies said. “I tried to bring that to the Bourne Braves depending on the situation of the game and what kind of game he is having. If he has a clutch hit or does anything very cool late in the game, the bullpen will go nuts with the Spoon chant.”

Bies -one of the most enthusiastic members of the Bourne Braves pitching staff- decided to apply that chant, which features a strong emphasis on the letter “o,” when he comes to bat for the Braves. This tradition is just one of the ways that the group of pitchers has grown stronger throughout the season.

Often times in summer baseball leagues, players will come and go, but the Braves have kept most of their core group of pitchers together through the entire summer, which has fostered the relationship they have with each other.

“I have fun sitting there and telling stories about the things we have done and the way our colleges are and our friends and girlfriends,” Eli Kraus (Kent State) said. “I got to know {Zach} Hess (LSU) pretty well from stuff like that and he is usually a quiet kid, so it was good to see people open up.

“No one really talked at all for the first couple days, but now we’re all pretty close,” reliever Christian Ryder (Georgia) added. “It’s definitely makes each day something to look forward to that you get to hang out in the bullpen and talk to the guys all the time.”

The summer environment differs from the NCAA season in that the pitchers are almost completely separate from the position players before and during the game.

“Personally, at my school the bullpen heads down once they are needed to head down,” Sean Leland (Illinois) said. “Here you are in the bullpen the whole game 24/7, you really don’t interact with the hitters other than BP (Batting Practice) so bullpen guys are staying down here the whole time.

“In college we don’t really get to hang out in the bullpen,” starting pitcher Brian Eichhorn (Georgia Southern) said. “Compared to past experiences from high school and travel teams, it’s just really laid-back. There is a lot less pressure.”

The isolation that they have from the rest of the team has not only allowed them to learn more about each other, but also have some friendly competition while playing Password and some different card games.

“I think it has to be cards,” Leland said about his favorite bullpen activity. “I’ve always been a fan of cards and I have never been with such a big group of guys that all love to also play cards any time.”

While the question of who the best cards player is up for debate depending on which game is being played, there seemed to be a consensus on one person it was not.

“I would say the worst cards player is Christian Ryder, hands down,” Bies said.

Ryder defended himself by saying that his shortcomings revolved mostly around one of the games, Capitalism, that they play.

“I won’t say I’m the best at this game and it’s just this game in particular because I got here and they are all playing a certain game that I hadn’t played before,” Ryder said. “They didn’t teach me so I had to teach myself. So I’d like to say that I’m pretty good for the come up that I have had to produce myself.

“I was the worst at one point but there is no shot I am now,” he added.

In addition to card games and the “Spoon” chant, the bullpen gets into it possibly more than anyone else when it comes to doing the Tomahawk Chop, a staple at Braves games whenever they score.

A quick glance over to the bullpen after the Braves put runs on the board will show them emphatically doing the chop.

This is another show of enthusiasm that is led by Bies, but there are other relievers that were given certain superlatives. Leland can always be seen with some Dunkin Donuts, Kyle Marman (Florida Atlantic) was declared to have the best red hair, and the players joked that Bies has the worst beard. Ryder and Bryan Hoeing (Louisville) were who some consider to be the best at Password.

Throughout all the joking around and team bonding, the chemistry within the bullpen has had a positive reflection onto how they perform on the field.

“It’s super relaxed and fun and I think that is part of the reason why we have done such a good job as a bullpen this year is just that guys aren’t super uptight,” Bies said. “Sometimes guys have playing cards in the bullpen and then they come into the game and are just out there executing pitches. I think that’s the best way to do it as a bullpen guy.”

You can contact the author via email (jjanower@gmail.com) or follow him on Twitter (@JanowerJacob).

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