OMAHA, Neb. – The University of Michigan has an athletic tradition perhaps unlike any other. Its history is littered with championships, legendary coaches and moments that are as alive today as when they first took place.
But watching this baseball program come into its own on the biggest stage of the sport’s collegiate level, one particular quote stands out.
The team, the team, the team.
More than anything else, that’s what has set this group of athletes up for the success they’re finally seeing. That’s what’s enabled them to reach this point, and what’s driving them to play their best baseball at the time they need to most.
It’s clear that they take pride in themselves, in their program and in their school. You can hear it in the way that junior left-hander Tommy Henry talks about “trying to win games for the block M, for the eight letters on our chest.”
This group of athletes, Team 153, is just that: a team. They love playing baseball, and they love playing baseball together.
It shows in the smiles on their faces, running around and joking together at practices. It’s in the way they always defer to each other, even as the media strives to heap credit onto a select few. It's in the way the whole team rushes out of the dugout for hugs and high-fives after a run scores. It’s in the dog pile after the game three Super Regional victory over UCLA and the handshakes that see redshirt junior left-hander Ben Keizer lifting senior first baseman Jimmy Kerr in a Titanic pose before games while the outfielders bow to each other at center field after a win.
Most of all, they’re playing for each other.
“Just being with them has been so much fun, because there’s so many different characters on the team, and each of the personalities play into a part of the team in such a special way,” sophomore catcher Joe Donovan said. “The dynamic that we’ve been able to have has just been awesome, and it truly is like being with your siblings, because every waking hour of the day we’re together, and after you’ve been on the road for so long, you know everything about everybody, and it’s just an absolute blast.
“We’ve just been lucky to have this, because truly, this past month has been Team 153, through and through.”
Bringing a national title back home to Ann Arbor and proving that a cold midwestern school can be a baseball powerhouse is important. But for these Wolverines, keeping this team together for even one more day is privilege.
“Coming down to our last strike in that game against Illinois, Blake Nelson and I were seeing each other after the game, and we were both pretty emotional, because we were staring at the end of our careers right there,” Kerr said. “And when it just flips around, and that kind of organic moment – you can’t create that or manufacture that anywhere else. Him and I were both tearing up, hugging each other after that game because we get another day together. We’ve carried that perspective this whole way.”
And so, just a few days from now, if it’s going to be Michigan again, there will be one reason for that above all the rest:
The team, the team, the team.