OMAHA, Neb. — To the disappointment of Texas A&M baseball fans, signs outside TD Ameritrade Park warn patrons of prohibited objects that include “bubbles, bubble making materials and bubble making devices.”
It is the first time that those items have been banned by the stadium security staff, according to an NCAA official.
Sans bubbles, the jinx shouldn’t be on for the Aggies, for the team still has pickles to will runs across home plate.
“It’s just one of those things where, whenever we bring out the pickles, it seems to bring in runs,” Aggie redshirt freshman outfielder Coll Stanley said.
It’s a ritual that began during the Houston Regional.
After grabbing a pickle from his Firehouse Subs box lunch, Stanley formulated the superstitious rite that the team has carried through to the NCAA tournament, he said.
According to the “pickle president,” if anything negative happens to the Aggies during an inning — like a strike, foul ball or an out — each player takes a nibble off of the pickle spear they wiggle in their hand. If something positive happens, they leave the pickle alone. Throughout the inning, the team shakes the pickles toward the opposing pitcher, which is a true sign of intimidation, Stanley said.
“That’s definitely just to get in the pitcher’s head,” Stanley said. “If you look over and see that we’re bringing out the pickles, more than likely, it’s going to be a big inning.”
So far, it’s worked well.
Stanley busted out the original pickle in the first inning of the Aggies’ Houston Regional contest against Baylor, and the Aggies plated two runs in the 8-5 win. The pickles also were out in full force during the Aggies’ seven-run rally in Game 2 of the Super Regional against Davidson, which included a two-run error by Davidson’s infield.
“When we were playing Davidson that last game, there was a couple pickles that weren’t working,” Texas A&M outfielder Cam Blake said. “We finally got to that good pickle, and that’s when we had that seven-run inning. I know [Davidson] kind of helped us out a little bit, but we like to think it was the pickles.”
The snacks always have been available to A&M baseball players this season, thanks to team dietician Blair Hitchcock, who utilizes pickles for their nutritional benefits.
“They’re really salty, and so they help with preventing cramps and making sure they stay hydrated,” Hitchcock said. “They’re drinking a lot of water, and the salt helps it stick.”
Hitchcock said her work has never been so closely associated with a team ritual quite as the Vlasic spears this season. So, since teams aren’t allowed to bring outside food and drink into the dugouts, she put pickles on a special order with tournament officials to be placed in A&M’s dugout before the Aggies’ 1 p.m. bout with Louisville, she said.
Ironically, head coach Rob Childress isn’t the biggest fan of his team’s rally-inducing snack.
“I don’t like the smell of the pickles,” Childress said. ” I just try to stay away from them. They keep working, so I do my best to stay as far away from them as I can.”
“He takes one for the team, which is awesome,” Stanley said.
College baseball is a sport that will offer up any superstitious sacrifice deemed worthy by the baseball gods. Teams have been caught on camera doing anything from stacking as many hats as possible on one player’s head to making cardboard armor out of leftover Cheez-It boxes and drinking cups.
Pickles? Well, that’s a first, Stanley and his Aggie teammates said. And that is the draw, despite being the wackiest rally ritual they have ever performed, they said.
“It’s been pretty fun,” Stanley said. “My buddies on Twitter sent me tweets and said, ‘You’re a clown for doing that,’ but hey, if it works, I’ll be a clown.”
So, do the pickles actually hold divine, run-giving power, according to the players who attempt to channel it? Not really,”Vice Pickle President” Blake said. However, it serves a very important, realistic role with the team.
“I’d say the whole pickle thing is more to just have fun and stay loose,” Blake said. “We play so much better as a group when we’re all loose. If we’re playing the occasion instead of just playing the game to have fun, we’re not going to play as well. I think that’ what the pickles do for us.”
The numbers back the trend. A&M averaged 6.8 runs per game through the regional and super regional rounds of the NCAA tournament last year, compared to the 3 runs per game the team averaged in its final six games of the regular season.
So, despite the wacky image the act produces, the pickles will be wiggling Sunday at Louisville starting pitcher Brendan McKay.
“It’s only weird if it doesn’t work,” Stanley said, with a laugh.