There is no crying in baseball.
This game is about toughness. Mental toughness, physical toughness and if you’ve ever tried to chew the old gum they used to put into baseball-card packs, even dental toughness. So it’s only natural to believe there is no crying allowed.
Baseball is dominated by legends such as Ruth, Cobb, Gibson and Koufax. Think they ever cried? No way.
But looking into Michigan coach Rich Maloney’s eyes following Saturday’s doubleheader, there was something in there besides the intensity that has helped raise this program from the dead: tears.
And never was that more apparent than when Maloney emerged from the celebration to find his wife along the third-base line to give her a hug and a kiss. She had tears in her eyes, too.
“It’s so hard to put into words,” Maloney said of winning his first Big Ten championship. “Four years ago I had an opportunity to realize a dream. To be able to come back home and coach at Michigan, which is an honor, and to cast a vision for the program on what we wanted to accomplish.”
In just one year, he took a team that had a 20-32 record the year before to finish third in the Big Ten. In three years he won 40-plus games and went to Michigan’s first NCAA Regional since 1999. And this season he’s won a Big Ten regular season championship.
The remarkable turnaround for the Michigan baseball program can be attributed to Maloney’s tireless efforts to make this program one of the most respectable in the nation.
When he had no chance to compete with Southern schools for the most prized recruits in the nation, he looked inward and recruited locally. Maloney has been able to recruit successfully top talent from the state of Michigan and other states in the Great Lakes region to help build his empire.
If you want proof just how good players from the state of Michigan can be, take a look at the Wolverines’ starting lineup for their championship-clinching game. Seven of the nine starters were from the state of Michigan.
Right before the game-winning hit in Saturday’s first game, the batter and both runners on base were from Michigan.
And in senior Mike Schmidt’s three-run homerun to seal the deal in game two, all three runs were scored by Michiganders.
Maloney has proven that you don’t need a multitude of players from below the Mason-Dixon Line to succeed at the Division I level. And even those not from Michigan are from nearby. Senior Jeff Kunkel and junior Leif Mahler are from Illinois and Ohio, respectively, and sophomore Chris Fetter – the team’s leader in ERA – is from Indiana.
But recruiting isn’t the only thing that Maloney has succeeded in. Over four years, he has been able to raise $8.5 million to build a new stadium. That’s right, The Fish is getting a face lift. And the new stadium will go great with the lights that were just installed last season to allow the team to play against its biggest rivals in sport’s most reverent atmosphere – baseball under the lights.
Still, the team wouldn’t go anywhere without good coaching and, oh yeah, he’s not too bad at that himself. If the last two weekends have been any indication, its that this team, more than any other, has truly grasped the concept of Maloney-ball: aggressive base running, stealing and bunting in situations that call for swinging away, impeccable defense, consistent pitching and timely hitting. Sure, those are all the tools for all successful ball clubs, but Maloney has done a masterful job at maximizing his team’s talent and getting his players to buy into the concept of a team.
His system works. It’s not always pretty, but it works.
The dream has finally become a reality for Maloney and he has done it his way, with his type of players and his brand of baseball.
There’s no crying in baseball?
There isn’t a real man in the world who wouldn’t have cried on that field while receiving a congratulatory hug from his wife other for winning his first Big Ten championship.
– H. Jose Bosch wanted to cry for picking Michigan to finish sixth in the Big Ten. Instead he’ll just watch “A League of Their Own” for the 30th time. He can be reached at email@example.com.