The inside of a baseball and softball dugout is one of the more unique places in all of sports. For the most part, players are hidden from fans. The chance of being thrown into the game in a blink of an eye doesn’t exist as it does in sports like football or basketball, so, for the most part, players not in the game are more relaxed.
So what goes on inside these dugouts that keeps players entertained for seven long innings, and sometimes more, game after game? From team rituals to chants to tasty snacks, life inside the dugout is a whole different game.
Be sure to pack snacks
The human body can last nearly three weeks without food. However, it seems as if the average high school baseball or softball player can’t last three innings without some sort of replenishment. While there isn’t a spread for kings and queens inside the dugouts, there are essential snacks that keep the players coming back for more.
One of the top delicacies is sunflower seeds. From traditional to jumbo, ranch or barbecue, every player has their go-to seed.
“I go for the cracked pepper seeds,” said Calaveras sophomore Alexis Dawe, who is the starting catcher for the CHS varsity softball team. “They are not as salty. They are kind of spicy and really good.”
Although the majority of baseball and softball players enjoy a good handful of “spits,” not everyone heads for the seeds bucket.
“I’m a sunflower seed guy myself, but don’t tell Ryan Taylor that because he’s a bubble gum guy all the way,” said Joe Celli, a senior pitcher for the Calaveras varsity baseball team.
From his shortstop position, Taylor can be seen chewing on a piece of gum every inning of every game. But it’s not just any stick of gum lying around the Calaveras dugout that makes its way into his mouth. Like sunflower seeds, there is a hierarchy when it comes to gum.
For Taylor, the No. 1 choice falls between Hubba Bubba and Bubblicious. But chewing gum isn’t something that he does to be trendy or to be different from the rest of his teammates. Taylor needs his gum fix to help ease his nerves.
“During games, chewing gum keeps me calm and relaxed,” Taylor said.
Bret Harte softball player Katie Juarez enjoys a piece of gum while pitching for the Bullfrogs, but she sticks with Polar Ice Extra because it lasts longer than bubble gum. But if it’s not gum or seeds that Juarez is craving, the Bret Harte dugout has a jar that filled to the brim with an assortment of candy to fill her needs. It’s in this appropriately named “Candy Jar” that Juarez can find her one yellow Starburst, a long-standing personal tradition, along with every other sweet a player might want.
“There are suckers, Smarties, Skittles and Sour Patch Kids,” Juarez said. “After each game, someone else takes it home and fills it up again.”
There are no sweets in the dugout for the Calaveras baseball team. In 2016, now JV head coach Larry Zurbrink brought a different flavor M&M to each game for the players to enjoy. With Zubrink no longer with the varsity squad, the players are missing his candy contribution.
“I do miss them,” Celli said. “It was always fun to see what kind we’d have each day. My favorite was the pretzel M&M and then peanut butter.”
For many baseball and softball players, the names they are referred to in the dugout rarely matches what is on the official team roster. Some players receive a common name that works in any situation, like ‘Kid’ and ‘Babe,’ but a solid nickname is what players respond to the most, regardless of how they got it in the first place.
Dawe has long been known as “Red” because of her hair color, but lately she has been responding to “Raw Meat Red” in the CHS softball dugout.
“I hit a home run and coach Rob (Wyllie) asked me if I ate my Wheaties that morning,” Dawe said. “I told him that I had half of a hamburger. He said, ‘Wow, that’s awesome. You eat raw meat in the morning.’ So then I became ‘Raw Meat Red.’”
Some nicknames are given purely due to age. Bret Harte’s Shelby Masarie was known as “Shark Bait” during her freshman year. Now a sophomore, the Bullfrogs are searching for a more age-appropriate name.
There are no shortage of superstitions in baseball and softball. The Bret Harte softball team does its best to not step on the white outfield line or the chalk line in front of the dugout. Calaveras softball makes sure that every player warms up with the same partner before each game.
And when runs are needed, the rally caps come on.
While the old fashioned idea of flipping a cap or visor upside down or inside out still gets practiced in many dugouts, the Calaveras softball girls put their own spin on the tradition for the 2017 season.
“We decided we were going to bring it to a different level,” said Calaveras senior Kayla Kappmeyer. “Alanda (Cardon) brought a banana hat. Another player brought a sombrero, there was a cowboy hat and other hats, too.”
In the Calaveras baseball dugout, the rally cap is replaced with the rally helmet. It’s not a helmet that can be worn when in the batter’s box, rather, an army helmet better suited for war.
“When we start to get a lot of hits, Casey (Copulos) will throw the helmet on and it just gets the team pumped up and it’s fun,” Celli said. “He’s walking around like he’s ready for battle.”
There is rarely, if ever, a quiet moment in the dugout. Baseball and softball, more so than any other sport, have their own language. Each player and each team has their own sayings, chants and code words.
“It’s a brotherhood and sisterhood, for sure,” said Bret Harte head softball coach Rich Juarez. “They create their own language for certain things and that’s where the nicknames come in. But the baseball and softball world definitely has its own language.”
Both baseball and softball players root on their teammates from the dugout, but the softball players take it to the extreme. Softball players have chants for nearly every situation.
For Calaveras head softball coach Mike Koepp, as long as his players are focused and paying attention to the game, he doesn’t mind the playful chants.
“I’m not a big cheer guy and I’m not a big chant guy, but I am a big energy guy,” Koepp said. “It’s like they are boarding on out of control or messing around, but they really are not. You don’t want to squash the energy and that’s what it’s all about.”
While there is chanting in softball, there is heckling in baseball. Baseball players make playful “jabs” at opponents loud enough for the opposition to hear, but quiet enough to not get them in trouble. However, the concept of heckling was much stronger a few years ago, which is something Calaveras head baseball coach Tom DeLappe, at times, misses.
“I don’t mind a little talking by the teams and the players,” DeLappe said. “I think it’s something that the game has lost because everyone is so concerned about hurting someone’s feelings or saying the wrong thing. I think, within reason, that’s good. It’s part of learning the game and play through adversity.”
When watching a Bret Harte softball game, it is one of the youngest players who is always making the most noise.
“Karlee (Juarez) talks so much,” Katie Juarez said of her freshman sister. “She’s the loudest person on the field and the loudest in the dugout. You cannot keep her quiet.”
The dugout experience
Because every team is different, every dugout is different. But the one thing that remains the same in each dugout is the love for the game from every player. And more than anything, the players just want to have a good time.
“When you are coaching a group of girls who are enjoying themselves, buying into the team thing and doing things together, you never want to put that to rest,” Koepp said. “That’s always an important piece to athletics.”
Contact Guy Dossi at (209) 498-2053 and follow him on Twitter at @GuyDossi