“Whatever you do, stay away from baseball players.”
“Date the whole college, just not a baseball player.”
“Baseball players are jerks and always trouble, not worth your time.”
My friends, family, and the college students who went before me gave me this type of advice before I left for college. I would like to say that comments like these didn’t influence the way I viewed the baseball team my freshman year, but they did.
And I’m ashamed now looking back on my misconceptions.
Walking around campus you can always find the baseball players in groups. Somehow their classes and lunch schedules always seem to be in sync. Sitting at the lunch table you can hear them above any other table, and you can always spot them by seeing their white maroon and gold accented “HC” baseball hats.
My first semester at Hesston College, the baseball team annoyed me. Why did they always travel in groups? Why didn’t they talk to other people as though they were better than everybody else? Why did they always use stupid code words that no one understood? And then there were always the rumors of the baseball players being disrespectful or getting into trouble for violating Hesston’s campus rules.
So I started calling them “The Cult.” To me, they matched the definition perfectly: “a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion, a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal.”
Baseball is their religion, and their rituals include eating together, going to class together, and practicing together.
Of course, the team did not appreciate my nickname. And I often argued with the players a lot because of the way I, like so many others, viewed them.
Until I got to know them.
As baseball season began in the second semester, I spent more time with the players as I commentated for games. I developed friendships and spent most of my time hanging out with them. They were funny, respectful, and pretty cool dudes.
They’re aware of the stereotypes. And they don’t care because most people who hold negative thoughts about baseball players haven’t taken the time to get to know them. Or they blame the whole team for one bad experience they had with a player.
I was surprised to find that after I befriended the team, people even started assuming things about me.
“You hang out with the baseball team? College must’ve made you wild.”
No. The baseball team is loyal, respectful, and funny. Sure, there are a few of them who make worse decisions than others. But it’s not fair to blame the actions of a couple people on the whole team.
I still call them “the cult” from time to time, but I now see that they’re more like a family. They eat dinner like a family, defend each other like a family, and of course, occasionally fight like a family. They have a family routine; They wake up at 5 a.m. to run and lift together. They eat together. Endure two-hour practices together. They push each other to go to classes so they can make the grades to play. They share the same struggle of doing homework while being physically and mentally tired or even getting into bed at night. They play nine, sometimes 18-inning games together.
They have family traditions and rituals. Every year they host the fall World Series, where the team is divided into two teams and they face-off. They have their inside jokes and code words that are only specific to their family, no one else knows what they mean. And no one knows what they mean because their loyalty is strong. They don’t share each other’s secrets and they never rat out another player, even when it’s to their disadvantage. Any former Lark knows exactly what I’m talking about.
But the true bond holding them together is the strong feelings each player has for game itself. They all respect the game and believe it’s the greatest sport in the world, something they’ll take to the grave. They all desire to succeed. They all desire to be great.