4 Remarkable College Baseball Players 0

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

TUCSON, Ariz. — Over the course of covering college baseball the last 46 years, I have come across some of the most unique people you could ever imagine.

Here are four of my favorites.

Pitcher Jason Haynie
South Carolina

Ever hear of a pitcher who performs a fire-breathing as well as fire-eating act?

From 1993-1996, Jason Haynie of the University of South Carolina was not only an incredible pitcher for the Gamecocks but a diverse entertainer who also juggled and performed sleight of hand.

His fire act always brought down the house which he performed at numerous hotels.

“Fire eating is when you take a stick on fire and bring it inside your mouth to put out the flame,” explained Haynie during the 1994 interview with Collegiate Baseball.

“Fire breathing is different. You take charcoal lighter fluid and pour it in your mouth. You have a torch in front of your mouth and spit out the lighter fluid as far as you can. The flames have erupted outward as far as 10 feet with a huge ball of fire.”

Haynie, who stressed people should not try fire eating or breathing unless they are well trained, said that butane is the fuel of choice when fire eating.

“The reason you use butane is that the fuel is the only thing that burns. I usually pour butane on a wire hanger wrapped with gauze and tied on with dental floss. I light it on fire, and then touch my tongue with the butane-coated gauze. My tongue is momentarily on fire, but it goes out very quickly. Before the butane burns off my tongue, another torch is lit by my tongue. People come away impressed with part of the act.

Haynie said his mouth was never coated with anything special to prevent the fire from scorching it.

His fire act was extremely dangerous to perform.

“You should never breathe in while you are fire eating because you might damage your lungs. The butane may run down your throat into your lungs, and then you would be in trouble.”

He injured himself while a photographer was shooting him and two other players for the back cover of the 1994 South Carolina media guide.

“I was fire breathing and spit out lighter fluid as usual into a torch of fire. This big ball of fire came out. But because it was a windy day, my left eye lash caught on fire.”

David Stevens
Wickenburg H.S. (Ariz.)

David Stevens is one of the most unbelievable baseball players the game has ever seen.

When he played for Wickenburg High School (Wickenburg, Ariz.) from 1981-1984, he played his favorite sport without legs (see photo of him attempting to pitch on page 5).

He was a thalidomide baby, born with stumps instead of legs.

During his high school career, he ran by utilizing the palms of his hands as feet and his leg stubs, one a misshapen foot with two toes, the other several inches of fused toes.

It goes without saying that he played with grit and determin-ation.

His story could have been tragic, but David’s indomitable spirit, to the amazement of everyone he knows, lifted him to remarkable deeds.

At birth, he was given a slim chance of living without brain damage. He defied the odds. His mother, believed to be 15 or 16 years of age at the time, abandoned David in a Phoenix hospital.

Fortunately, a loving couple by the name of Bill and Bee Stevens adopted young David at the hospital.

During his high school career, he normally walked on artificial legs. But as an athlete in football, wrestling and basketball, he used the palm of his hands and his leg stubs as legs.

Here is a sample of his athletic drive during his athletic career at Wickenburg H.S.:

  • During a junior varsity football season, he played nose guard in eight games. He was involved in seven unassisted tackles and one quarterback sack.
  • As a first-year wrestler, he registered an amazing 10-11 record.
  • He bench pressed 208 pounds through his sophomore year.
  • Once during a physical education basketball class, he scored 22 points.

So it wasn’t a case where coaches or students felt sorry for David. He had legitimate athletic talent.

In baseball games, he was normally put into games in the late innings of tight games because he draws walks. His strike zone begins about one inch above home plate and extends eight inches above that.

Stepping to the plate, he used a 27 ounce aluminum bat that was about 2 ½ feet long. In seven plate appearances during his sophomore year, he walked five times, cracked a base hit and struck out once.

He ran with remarkable speed from home to first base on any hit balls or walks for that matter.

He hustled more than anyone on the team. And because of the physical abuse that his hands took, the skin on each hand was as tough as boot leather.

On occasion, he played right field for Wickenburg H.S. and actually swiped two bases and knocked in a run for the junior varsity and varsity squads.

On one of his steals, he outscrambled the throw to second base by diving head first into the bag.

Life was not perfect for David. One time he was unceremoniously stuffed in a locker at school by a jerk.

But for the vast majority of the time, life was good for this remarkable young man.

No other athlete I have interviewed in the last 46 years stacks up to the inspirational level as this young man. Not even close.

Pitcher Jamie Bluma
Wichita State

This gentleman is the wildest free spirit I ever met. After all, this is a man who:

  • Licked bugs off the grill of the team bus while on a trip from the University of Arkansas to Wichita, Kan. during his freshman season after teammates dared him to do it for $20.
  • During a series with Bradley, Bluma was dared by pitcher Jason Jordan to eat a medium sized nightcrawler. Bluma obliged and received a hot dog as payment for services rendered.
  • He put a live moth in his mouth and put it under his lip as if he were dipping tobacco.
  • Early during one season at Wichita St., he and his bullpen crew captured several mice, played with them for about five innings and then “terminated” them.
  • He once captured a toad in the bullpen during a regional game and promptly put a leash on it.
  • To make the toad comfortable, he constructed a habitat where he and other pitchers in the bullpen constructed a miniature pond complete with grass, trees (from weeds), aquatic animals (plastic turtle and toad), and bridge (made of stretched out gum).

Bluma added a final human element to the magnificent engineering feat.

He threw in a touch of garbage (small paper crumpled up) so that no one could mistake this area as virgin land never inhabited by man.

He carried around an intriguing mix of plastic creatures during his Wichita State career, including a rat named “Scroogie,” a turtle named “Changeup,” and a snake called “Gaaas.”

In his collection of bizarre creatures were plastic cockroaches and a chicken.

The most famous part of his plastic creature collection was a 1 ½ foot long green grasshopper and a plastic baby doll. He took the head off the baby doll and transferred it to the top of the grasshopper’s head (see photo below).

Having a plastic baby head located on a grasshopper is something to behold. He actually hung this creature from the ceiling of the dugout during the College World Series in games involving Wichita St.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Silence Of The Lambs was one of Bluma’s all-time favorite movies and the psychotic character in the movie, Hannibal Lecter, his favorite character.

1B Bryant Winslow
Wichita State

This young man was without a doubt the most courageous baseball player I have ever interviewed.

Who else would play the last few weeks of the 1989 college baseball season with not only a sore shoulder, sore elbow and pulled groin muscle but a broken leg (stress fracture of his right leg).

When the Shockers qualified for the 1989 College World Series (which they eventually won), he hobbled around the confines of Rosenblatt Stadium for Wichita State’s first five games of the CWS with a lump so severe that he grimaced in pain when any weight was put on his broken right leg which was heavily taped for each game.

During the fifth inning of the national championship game against Texas, Longhorn runner Lance Jones collided with Bryant at first base after a throw from third baseman Mikes Jones pulled Winslow off the bag and into the first base line.

Both players sprawled to the ground in pain. After a few minutes, Jones brushed the dirt off his jersey and seemed to be okay.

But Bryant (see photo above, right) was on his back near the coaching box at first base in excruciating pain as he held his right leg for approximately five minutes.

He was helped up by Shocker Coach Gene Stephenson. But any weight put on the leg caused intense pain to Bryant.

His already fractured right leg was now broken in another spot — on the fibula bone as X-rays would reveal after the game. In addition, he broke his left wrist.

But despite having three broken bones now, he pleaded with Shocker Head Coach Gene Stephenson to stay in the game.

Winslow brokered a deal with Stephenson to let him stay out there for at least that inning.

After Winslow took his position at first base and pitcher Greg Brummett delivered a pitch to the batter, Winslow called time and slowly hobbled toward the Wichita State dugout located along the third base line as he was eventually helped to the dugout.

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