Rice Owls Club Baseball

NCBA Poll Week 39 – Rice Ranked #17
March 26, 2010, 7:12 am
Filed under: District VII, NCBA Polls, Spring 2010

The NCBA has just released its national rankings for week 39, and District VII has had some significant movement in the polls.  Conference rival UH-Downtown jumped to #14 nationally, with Rice moving up to #17 with 18 votes.  District VII members Lone Star Montgomery (#24) and Texas A&M Corps of Cadets (#31) were also nationally ranked.

A pdf of the poll can be found here.

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Rice Club Baseball…The Beginning
March 16, 2010, 2:02 pm
Filed under: General

Some memories of the first season of Rice Club Baseball from the oldest living club baseball alum (assuming I’m older than Jordan):

There’s a saying that every man has a point in his life where he has the realization that he won’t play professional baseball. I was well passed that point. Baseball was my first love, but as a late bloomer, I was being blown away in little league so I abandoned baseball for tennis, which I played in high school. My last organized game of baseball was sometime around seventh grade when I was about 13 years old. So you can imagine how nervous I was to head over to the Sid Rich commons with some other Jones friends as a 22 year old senior, responding to a listserv announcement that some freshman was getting together a club baseball team. From the beginning, Steve, our redheaded freckled freshman team captain had everything under control, or at least under control enough for the rest of us to do what we wanted to do, which was play baseball. From those first practices, we seemed to be the most ragtag, motley crew of people who never would have found each other had it not been for club baseball. And as cliche as it sounds, we really were brought together by this common bond of playing baseball. I think that for all of us, the fact that we had another chance to be on a real team and represent our school and shag fly balls and chew seeds in the dugout and rake the mound and wear really high socks was something that we had given up on. But for everyone from the freshman who had been the star senior on his high school baseball team last year to me, who hadn’t had an at bat in 9 years, it was so easy to fall into these rituals because we were so grateful for the chance to do them again.

The first practice game was an official one against Sam Houston state was a kind of bizarre wake-up call for me. It was the first time I had ever played on a field with grass on the infield. We didn’t have any sort of uniform, but Sam Houston had real uniforms, and I think I felt like our team still wasn’t really going to play real games. Tutu pitched an few dominating innings, but I don’t think we ever convinced him to pitch again. I had my first at bat in 9 years and I hit a slow, seeing-eye grounder between the first and second basemen for a hit and I don’t think I stopped smiling about it for a week. Our first real game was a non-conference game against Texas A&M and we were massacred. The score was something like 22-1. We did, however, turn our first double play when one of their runners on first base thought there were two outs and took off running on a fly ball to left. I was the lucky cutoff man who got to field the toss from left and make the soft toss to first to complete the double play (I think Mark Flatow was the left fielder and Jake Schornik was the first baseman). Additionally, Ben Saidman scored our first run on a wild pitch. This run was important for our self-esteem as I would crudely tell Steve that a team of cripples would score 0 runs, but a team has to have SOME amount of minimal skill to put one across. I struck out looking in my first official at bat, and I vowed it would never happen again.

The first conference games were at Baylor. We drove to Waco in the morning to play an afternoon game. I remember the excitement about our first road trip was that everything we did would automatically be a “tradition” that we “had” to do on every successive trip. On the way, this included mooning our teammates while driving on the highway. I think Kendall Spence also got a speeding ticket along the way. The first game was played on a really nice field, but it was really muddy. We debuted our “uniforms,” which consisted of a t-shirt with printed logo and number, a hat from the rice bookstore and no uniform pants or socks. I didn’t even own real baseball pants, so I had to borrow a pair from Jake, and I don’t think I ever gave them back. I got the chance to start at second base and was batting 6th, I think, because in the top of the first, I came up with the bases loaded and two outs. I would like to say that I smacked a frozen rope into right field, but it was more like a bloop single that was just over the glove of the second baseman. The runner on third came home to score and we would have scored a second, but Dan Perez slipped on the mud rounding third. Turns out he could have scored standing up, as the right fielder gathered the ball and came up gunning home. Unfortunately for us both, he was right in line with the first base line and his throw came right at me. I put my hand up to defend myself and got hit right in the right palm below my little finger. It would hurt to make a fist for the rest of the season. The ball bounced away and I was ready to take off to second, but everyone had to stop because Dan had fallen. After the adrenaline of the play had worn off, I let out a loud “FUCK!!” and shook my hand, not realizing that the Baylor fans were kind of taken aback by my swearing. With that, however, Rice club baseball had its first-ever lead and I was credited with the first RBI. It would also be my last hit of the season. We went on to get killed in 2 of the 3 games, and lost the third, but I’ll always remember on moment from the close one. We had just held the Bears to no runs and we were excited headed into the dugout to bat. Before we got there, though, Jordan Almes, our senior catcher and one of the classiest, most baseball-savvy people on our team brought us in to a huddle and said something along the lines of, “we’re playing great, but we’re not there yet. we’re going to lose some close games before we win. if we keep our heads in there and play hard, we’re going to keep this close and we’ll learn how to win.” I thought it was great. We still lost, but we kept it close and I think we gained a lot of confidence from being able to hang with a team that was so good. I should also mention that it was during this series that Jake hit our first home run.

The Baylor road trip also included some off-the-field highlights. We went out as a team to Fudrucker’s for dinner the first night and it felt just like a little league team. After such a long day of driving and getting our butts handed to us, it was great to relax like that. Other “traditions” that were born on that trip were buying and smoking some White Owl cigars and going to a party of some girls that someone knew from somewhere. Recently at Rice, the club lacrosse team had gotten into huge trouble for hazing its freshmen and the captains had been suspended from Rice for a year or something. Since our captain WAS a freshmen, we wondered if we could haze him AND get him suspended for freshmen hazing. I also remember having to bang on the door at this house for a while to get a certain teammate out of some girl’s room so the rest of us could go back to the hotel to go to sleep. And while there was talk of starting the tradition of going to the game field late at night to pee on our positions on the field, it never materialized (thank goodness).

I can’t remember if we played at Texas Tech or at home against Texas State next, but I’ll tell the sad story of our Lubbock road trip first. I think while we were meeting in the south college parking lot, calling and begging people to come play on this road trip. It turned out we had a total of 9 guys (and only 2 pitchers) going in three cars, which meant we’d all be getting a lot of playing time, including some guys on the mound who shouldn’t be there. If I can remember correctly, the 9 were me, Marshall, Andrew, Dan, Steve, Jordan, Jimmy, Rikk and Mark. Because we were so low on pitching, and Lubbock was so far away, our goal was to play more innings of baseball  (by avoiding being run-ruled) than hours spent driving. We wouldn’t reach our goal, but not for the reasons we expected. After a discussion of strategy at the hotel before our first game, we decided to save our “real” pitchers for the shorter Sunday games where they had a chance to go all 7 innings and throw whomever wanted to pitch out there. Marshall stepped up and threw a pretty good game, all things considered. We were keeping it close, playing good defense and the score was probably something like 5-3 in the 4th inning or so when a Tech player hit a sharp grounder to third. It took a horrible hop and hit Dan in the face, knocking out his front tooth (or maybe two teeth?). We collected the tooth and tried to figure out what to do next. Dan, I think, was in shock a little bit and we all sort of wondered if he could just keep playing and deal with the tooth later. Luckily for Dan, Andrew had the good sense to treat it seriously and get a Tech player to show them how to get to the hospital, where they put his tooth back in and drugged him up pretty good. We forfeited that game. Again, we wondered if Dan could sleep it off and play tomorrow, but we knew he had to get back to Houston. After much discussion, Steve drove Dan back that night, but needed to take someone else with him in the car to help with the late-night driving, so I think Rikk left, too, leaving us with 6 players and 2 more forfeits the next day. The other strange part about that night was that Andrew’s truck had broken down, and we all stood around trying to fix it, even though none of us knew what we were looking at. To us, the battery wires looked corroded, and someone said that Coca-Cola would remove the rust off a screw, so we bought a coke and poured it onto the battery. Strangely, it did not fix the problem and probably lowered our collective manliness 2 or 3 notches. So the next day we woke up with only 6 players and one car. We loaded up our entire team and our gear into my ’94 Dodge Spirit and went to the field. Even though we were forfeiting, we still wanted to play, so we took some of their guys and played a game for fun. During this game, I had my best defensive play of the year when ball 4 scooted by Jordan playing catcher and the batter tried to run to second. Jordan goes back and collects the ball and guns it down to second, where I had been heads up enough to cover the base. Jordan made a strong throw, but it was short and to the third base side. I made a sweet short-hop pickup and lunged back to second barely in time for the tag out. Everyone congratulated Jordan on the throw, but since I’m writing this history, I get to tell it the way I remember. I also had a beautiful sacrifice bunt that caught everyone off guard (we were down by about 10 runs). It was so good I almost beat it out, and for those who know how slow I am know it must have been quite a well-placed bunt. Unfortunately, since it came in an exhibition game, it did not count at the team’s first official sacrifice, an honor that went to Ben Saidman later in the year. Eventually, Andrew’s car got fixed and the 6 of us went back in two cars. Hours driven: 16. Innings of baseball played: approximately 13.

But the season was not all bad, baseball wise. Our second home series came against Texas State and it happened to fall on the weekend of Beer Bike. Marshall was the Jones bike captain, Kendall was working the pit and I was pit crew captain and Jones Beer Bike coordinator. Jones took Beer Bike pretty seriously, and when we dominated the race and won, it was a euphoric feeling. However, we still had a baseball game to play and Kendall and I went, even as Marshall had some (much deserved) celebrating to do. Strangely, I don’t remember much about the game against Texas State, but I remember the final out that sealed our first win as a groundout to the shortstop. A Beer Bike victory and Rice Club Baseball’s first win on the same day meant I had a bit of celebrating to do back at Jones. I called Marshall on the way home and he was very excited. When I found him at the Jones party, he told me I was so lucky and immediately punched me in the crotch; luckily I still had on my uniform and cup from the game. After changing clothes, I drank too much champagne, but I do remember seeing Steve at the party, sharing our fun. The next day I was way to hung over to play, but somehow Marshall dragged himself out of bed and played both Sunday games. I promised Steve I’d make it for the second game, but I knew it was a lie when I said it. That was too bad for me, because we went on to win our second game in history and our first series.

The season ended as it had begun, getting killed by Sam Houston. My final at bat was a fly out to right field, so after I started the season 1 for 2 with a single and an RBI, I ended the season 1-14 with a walk. After vowing never to strike out looking again, I didn’t, and only struck out 4 times in the season, which I considered amazing for the kid who never ever swung his bat in little league, waiting for walks because the pitchers couldn’t throw 3 strikes before they threw 4 balls. I kept the scorebook as much as I could when we played and compiled the team stats. I added the category “AB/K” because even though my average was so low, I wanted to have an offensive category in which I was in the top 5 on the team. I hold the distinction of being the only club baseball player to never have the chance to wear a real uniform as the other two seniors on the team, Jordan and Marshall, both got to play the second year, too. I look back on those club baseball days as some of my fondest memories at Rice. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have started the team, especially because on any established team, a slightly overweight senior who hadn’t played in 9 years wouldn’t see much playing time. I’m sure Steve could fill in all the technical details about how club baseball became a real club and raising money for dues and securing real uniforms from the athletic department, but I hope that this history helps give an idea of the feeling that surrounded that first year, a feeling of being purely happy to be playing baseball and not really caring that we weren’t a team of all-stars.

Anyway, I look forward to the first organized students vs alumni game in the future, and best wishes to everyone on the Rice Club Baseball team, past, present and future.

#14 Simon Birenbaum, 2B

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Week 37 Top 15 Poll Released
March 11, 2010, 6:41 pm
Filed under: District VII, NCBA Polls, Spring 2010

NCBA has just released the Top 15 poll for Week 37.  The Owls have climbed back into the rankings with 11 votes, good for a tie at the 25th spot.  Rice is ranked behind District VII rivals UH-Downtown (22 votes) and Lone Star College – Montgomery (19 votes).  Texas A&M Corps of Cadets came in with 5 votes.  A link to the official poll can be found here.

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