Over the course of a lot of games together, baseball teams create unique ways of bonding.
You might remember the Yankees a few seasons ago responding to big hits with a thumbs-down gesture (because of a Mets fan who gave them the thumbs-down). The Twins a few seasons ago would make a sniffing gesture when they could "smell the RBI." The Red Sox carried the "idiots" moniker for a few championship caliber seasons. The shaving cream and/or water cooler treatment after a walkoff win is kind of universal. The most enduring bonding ritual is probably the high five, which traces its roots to baseball, albeit in a disputed account. And there are countless others.
The UMB Pirates of the Lehigh Valley Men's Baseball League have one that's right up there.
Pirates slugger Collin O'Connor owns The Club: a 38-inch, 58-ounce baseball bat (a typical bat is 33 inches-30 ounces) passed down from his father. The Club isn't for regular use, but players who use it for just one at-bat enter The Club club.
"Do you remember the bat from The Natural, Wonderboy, made from a tree that was struck by lightning? Well The Club is that tree. The entire tree," Pirates Manager Jorge Rodriguez said. "Any new player that chooses to can enter the club, all they have to do is use the bat in one at bat, that's it. They don't have to get a hit or anything, but if they do, well, look out, because the bench will go wild."
Two new Pirates entered The Club club on Sunday while the team held a big lead against the Alpha Braves. (They later almost blew that lead, but let's not sweat the details.)
The new inductees are Jared Quintero and Steve Homza. Homza earned himself a spot in the inner circle of The Club club with a base hit to left field.
Dillon Dunne is the all-time leader with three Club hits in six at-bats.
This is where it begins to sound a bit like a tall tale -- well, a bit more like a tall tale. O'Connor says his father, Terrence, used The Club as his game bat. And Eric Schmitt, a player on the MSBL Royals and head coach of the Martins Creek Creekers in the Blue Mountain League, says he "played against this bat." Terrence O'Connor, Schmitt said, played his ball in work boots -- "classic Paul Bunyan move."
But back to what's certain.
"The Club," Rodriguez said, "is about players making a statement that having fun while playing is more important than stats. It's about self confidence and camaraderie."
"It's about legend," Rodriguez said, "and a legend continues to grow."