Richard Tocci

Richard Tocci
Just when you thought it was safe, I show up...


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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Aggie Baseball

On Tuesday I went to an Aggie Baseball game at Olsen Field in College Station. This is not a rare thing, but usually baseball games are quite crowded due to Aggie Baseball's popularity, rivaled only by Aggie Football and, in recent years, Aggie Basketball.

The reason the stadium was light in attendance was because the visitor was Penn State University, which is the reason I went to the game. My friend Jeff Hughes told me about it, and for $8 I can sit in general admission seating right along the first base line and up over the visitor dugout.

If you have never been to an Aggie Baseball game, you are in for a fan shock. Aggie fans that sit behind he opposing dugout are quite brutal, and it takes a cool head to prevail when being on a visitor's team. I have witnessed people banging their hands on the dugout roof when the Aggies score runs, quick verbal jabs, insults, and other behavior rivaled only by what I've seen in my living room watching an Eagles Football game, or Battery Day at old Veteran's Stadium when JD Drew would appear.

The student section, the 200 section which is also general admission, is a lively group of guys and girls, figuratively throwing everything they have at the opposing team. Jeff is a former student, so this is where he sits when he goes to a game, and I joined him here. I could not help but laugh at the variety and originality of the rituals. For example, when the Aggies strike out an opposing batter, the opening theme from The Rifleman plays over the speakers, with the video on the flatscreen scoreboard:

Here's another link to the video.

At the end of the opening theme, the students sing the words "...because it feels so GOOOOOD!" along with the ending cadence.

When the opposing team switches pitchers, the students great him after his last warm-up pitch by announcing "Howdy, New Guy!" And then there's the taunting of the opposing base coach that refuses to step in the box, or steps partially in the box, asking him to please step in the box, or make a decision about the box.

But not all rituals are aimed at the opposing team. When a fly foul ball goes up behind home plate, a net is there to catch the wayward ball. Fans sing a note that goes up in pitch (no pun intended) when the ball rolls up the net, and lower in pitch when it rolls down the net. Eventually it rolls off the net, and one of the ballboys (kids under the age of 10, usually, dressed smartly in clean Aggie Baseball uniforms that match the team that day) runs over to get it. If they are quick enough to catch it, they get a big cheer. If not, they get "Awww!", and some students will even throw a jab at THEM! In the Penn State game I attended, a student yelled "Wow, your brother was better than you!", even though the child likely didn't hear the jab at all.

If a foul ball goes out of the stadium and out of site, students point in the direction it flew, and wait for one of many sound effects. Those effects include skid marks followed by a deafening car crash, or a car alarm going off.

And then, there's the train. Running parallel to right field is a train track that is in use for freight transport:

View Larger Map

Link to the Google Map web page.

Since the train runs through a populated area, the train is required to sound the horn before passing through a crossover. When that happens, fans raise their hands, extending fingers (not THAT one) to guess the number of engines on the train. The only prize is bragging rights that you were lucky enough to guess correctly.

The Aggies, in the last 14 years or so, have not had anything less than a really good team. There have been a few that have not performed well enough to make it into tournament play, but most do and get to at least the Super Regionals. Unfortunately, as much as I like Penn State, their baseball team is not at the same NCAA level as their more famous football team. The Aggies took advantage of that, and whooped them 17-3 that night. But the highlight of the night was when the PSU third baseman caught a popup fly ball and didn't screw it up. The Aggie students clapped patronizingly, made a few clean, offhanded comments that included how proud the boy's mother was, and wondering what the hell a Nittany Lion was (which I had to look up, too, because I had no idea either). But one clever fan did something that was just plain funny: He sang the cadence to Sports Center, as if to say that was his highlight of the night. I figure that was clever enough that he should get his degree.

Even if there was a baseball team I liked a lot more than the Aggies, I would have enjoyed the game because the antics are just as entertaining as the game itself. If you are fed up with how PC and nice-nice youth little league has become, take your kids here and let them see what they're in for at the college level, unless you think it might harm their delicate sensibilities.

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