July 13, 2016
OMAHA, Neb. — What is the best way to get baseball players to relax in high stress situations like the College World Series?
Over the past 70 years of this event, many unique and strange rituals have taken place in dugouts.
Perhaps the most creative and entertaining was what transpired at this year’s CWS.
Arizona’s reserves performed a type of ritualistic water dance usually in the fourth inning when special music was cued up in the press box just before the Wildcats were ready to hit.
Five or six players would start jumping up and down which would morph into players squeezing the life out of water bottles which shot water straight in the air and fell onto the dance group.
Their hands would gyrate up and down to the beat of the music as they screamed for joy.
Watching the big smiles on the faces of the starters who were about to bat was a revelation since they were obviously focusing on what they were planning on doing in their next at bat during the most important games of the year.
This dance always broke the tension and relaxed these players instead of being focused robots who may or may not perform under extreme pressure.
As we saw Arizona hitters perform time and time again, we wondered if this technique, which had never been done before in the history of the College World Series, was something coaches should embrace in their programs during the season. The Wildcats had the most hits (63) in the College World Series and most runs scored (32). Time and again, Arizona hitters came through in the clutch as they finished second at the College World Series.
This amazing group of reserves also cheered loudly when Arizona did anything well and always squeezed water bottles as columns of water shot into the air. It was water world Wildcat style. They also adopted a Spiderman figurine for good luck in the dugout and sported rally mustaches.
While there are a number of old school coaches who obviously cringed when they saw the antics of Arizona players dancing in the dugout, we started thinking about whether similar techniques have been used by teams during the 70-year history of the College World Series. While not to this extreme, the answer is a resounding yes.
“My first reaction is that it was pure genius what Arizona players did,” said Tom Hanson, author of the best selling book Heads-Up Baseball: Playing The Game One Pitch At A Time with Ken Ravizza.
“All you have to do is look at the results they had.
“However, my first question with such antics is whether it is negative toward the other team or disrespectful and a form of taunting or ragging their opponents. If so, I would be against it. If it was all about their players, then it was great.
“The question is what works for an individual and a team? The challenge for every team is to play to a high level of performance with freedom and without interference. The formula for this success is performance equals potential minus interference.”
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