Looking across the field at South Carolina’s dugout, there are four bags hanging above the bench that stick out from the traditional baseball bag style.
The four have straps and are meant for preteens but are being sported by four grown men, all bullpen pitchers on the Gamecock baseball team.
Tyler Johnson wears one with dogs dressed as a policeman, fireman and construction worker. Reed Scott wears one resembling Lightning McQueen from Disney’s Cars. Josh Reagan’s has the Superman logo on it. And Colie Bowers has a light-up Pokémon one.
Looking closer, the pitchers walking by all sport mustaches, a team-wide staple this season.
Baseball is weird.
It has strange traditions and superstitions, and the Gamecocks are no different.
“Usually it’s with facial hair,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if you guys caught (John Jones’s) mustache the other day, but it’s hideous.”
Players have different ways they get ready for games and things they do to get fired up before playing a long nine innings. Jones, who helped start the team’s mustache motif, has a few other strange traditions.
“John Jones before the games will make a cup of coffee and he has this spark energy, he has this fruity flavor, and he’ll put it in the coffee. It’s the weirdest mixture I’ve ever seen,” catcher Chris Cullen said. “I don’t know how he drinks it. It probably tastes horrible.”
But that’s not the only time Jones, a junior, has used coffee to stay amped through a game.
“John Jones would put coffee in the Gatorade squirt bottles and he’d be out here drinking coffee throughout. It sounds terrible,” pitcher Clarke Schmidt said. “It sounds absolutely awful. It wasn’t even hot coffee. It was like watered-down coffee, and he’d squirt it into his mouth.”
Schmidt, who has thrown to Jones in game last season, also has his traditions as well. He shows up about four hours before the game to stretch and start his pregame routine. His roommate, Madison Stokes, also gets to the ballpark about three hours before the game to stretch.
“You don’t really want to talk to me. I’m the guy that doesn’t want to talk to anybody, who’s locked in. I have a routine,” Schmidt said. “I like to be meticulous about it and stay on schedule. I do my stretching; I do my visualization. I don’t like to be bothered too much.”
Johnson, who sports the newly acquired Paw Patrol backpack, also has his own superstition, although he said it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
“Our baseball socks, one has a label on it and one doesn’t. I have to make sure the label is on my right food,” he said. “If its not, I’m all out of whack.”
Schmidt said the pitchers are the weirdest group with Josh Reagan downing a Red Bull energy drink before appearances and Wil Crowe shot-gunning a Red Bull before Friday night games.
The position players, Alex Destino said, spend their pregame dancing in the clubhouse with Cullen being one of the team’s better dancers. He also said he has no intention of adding a pregame Red Bull into his routine.
“I’d die if I did that,” he said, laughing. “That’s just something that gets a lot of guys fired up.”