College World Series: Utropolis, Rafiki and other CWS rally mascots and methods
OMAHA, Neb. -- Rally antics have had a place in baseball for a long time, from inside-out rally caps to the Anaheim Angels’ famous rally monkey from the 2002 World Series. This is especially true in college baseball, where we’ve seen all sorts of things just this season like LSU’s Rally Possum and Wright State’s deer.
The 2016 College World Series field has its fair share of rally animals and antics as well. Get to know the creatures and superstitions you’ll be seeing in Omaha.
Oklahoma State: Utropolis the toy dinosaur
When the Cowboys were in Oklahoma City for the Big 12 Tournament, infielders Jacob Chappell and David Petrino found a toy Tyrannasaurus-Rex dinosaur on the ground. They picked it up, named it Utropolis, and according to the Cowboys, it helped them score runs.
Just got back to the hotel. Time to rest up and get ready for the weekend. Omaha has treated me great so far! pic.twitter.com/qKMIoGgw1K— Utropolis (@utrop4pokes) June 16, 2016
“It was destiny,” Chappell said. “A gift from the baseball gods.”
There was only one problem: Oklahoma State gave up nine runs in the eighth inning twice under Utrop’s watch.
“He did not like the eighth inning at all,” Pokes pitcher Trey Cobb said. “We gave up back-to-back nine spots in two games in the eighth inning. … So we just figured out in the eighth inning you have to stow him away and let him take a nap.”
And that’s exactly what Chappell and Petrino, Utrop’s caretakers, make sure happens.
Bringing good energy, that is what we are here for,” Petrino said. “If our number gets called, we’ll go in. But if it doesn’t, then we’re here to take care of Utrop and keep us going.”
The toy T-Rex has its own Twitter account, and will be in the dugout in Omaha – just not during the eighth inning.
“He gets to see the ninth,” Cobb said. “But he really enjoyed the plane ride up here and got some cookies and milk. That was pretty cool.”
How did he get his name?
“He’s just Trop,” Petrino said. “He’s tropical, a tropical animal. Make no bones about it. He is definitely a vicious dinosaur. That’s who he is.”
UC Santa Barbara: Raul the Snake/Rally Jellyfish
When the Gauchos were in Louisville for their Super Regional, they practiced at a local high school that had a wooded area beyond the fence. Freshman pitcher Grant Dragmire went back there to retrieve home run balls, and he found a snake skin.
“He comes out with this snake skin, he names it Raul and we’ve been winning,” junior Billy Fredrick said. “You will see Raul in the dugout. He might be hard to find but he will be in there.”
Fredrick also described a “Rally Jellyfish,” which is actually just an upside-down plastic cup cuts in the bottom for tentacles.
“The pitchers trying to figure out a way to get some hits for us, hoping and praying we find a way to hit the ball,” JJ Muno said.
Miami: Various methods
When the Canes need runs, it’s dress-up time for one of the pitchers. They’ll put catcher’s gear on one of them, or they’ll make a cap stack of 15-plus hats on top of one of their heads.
“Warming up the bats,” Willie Abreu said of another method. We make sure we wake those things up whenever they’re asleep, so we just throw them on the floor and start rattling them around, it’s pretty funny.”
They’ll also do “Runs for runs,” where if they haven’t scored in a couple innings, they’ll all run out to the fence and back.
“We always find a way, whatever happens,” Michael Mediavilla said.
Arizona: Whatever Robby Medel does
“[Robby Medel] just comes up with weird stuff,” Cesar Salazar said. “For example, our last game, he just grabbed a box of Cheez-Itz and just started throwing them around in the air.”
Salazar went on to explain all sorts of other antics, like dancing, arranging cups like a dinosaur on someone’s back. Teammate Cody Ramer told of a time they took their belts and wrapped them around their head like headbands. So while they have their rally methods, you never know what to expect from the Wildcats’ dugout.
“There’s not really one consistent thing,” Salazar said.
Texas Tech: Water the tree
“Water the tree” is a mantra for Texas Tech this year that comes from coach Tim Tadlock.
“A little bit of work each day will go a long way,” Tadlock said. “It’s about trust, it’s about fundamentals. … You trust that [the tree] is going to grow.”
The Red Raiders have completely bought in – so much so, that they don’t mind a few splashes in the dugout.
“Every time we start a rally, or start something small and we just want to get a little more excitement, we get a cup of water and we just throw it up in the air in our dugout,” freshman pitcher Davis Martin said.
In this case, “watering the tree” is a way to say that work each day can get you to your goals. Texas Tech made it to Omaha, but they still have the goal of a national title ahead of them. Expect more water in the TD Ameritrade dugouts – and they will welcome the water, with temperatures of nearly 100 degrees forecasted all week.
“The tree is all of us,” junior outfielder Stephen Smith said.
TCU: Rally Sanny
The Horned Frogs played a weekend at Minute Maid Park in Houston early in the season, and the dugout had hand sanitizer that turned into “Rally Sanny.”
“We would hit the hand sanitizer and pass it around to wash away the outs,” pitcher Brian Howard said. “We’ve brought it to Lupton a couple times.”
No word on if they’ll bring out the sanitizer in Omaha as well, but if they don’t, there are other options.
“We’re kind of a free-for-all,” catcher Evan Skoug said. “Each guy has their own little twist. … It’s kind of a heat of the moment kind of deal and we make things up as we go.
And then there’s the bullpen, which has its own traditions.
“It’s called a hat card, we stack our hats up and aim it to where we think they’re going to hit it,” Durbin Feltman said. “We got a pretty good percentage on that, it works for one to two runs an inning. I think it’s probably failed once and we’ve done it quite a bit.”
The Gators aren’t really known for things like dugout antics. They may get loud, especially under the urging of vocal leader Buddy Reed, there's nothing like a toy dinosaur in their dugout (that we know of).
“Our last game against FSU, it got a little rowdy then, pitcher Dane Dunning said, “but throughout the season, we stay as I like to call it ‘baseball formal.’”
They did have one earlier in the season though – but that was exclusively against rival LSU. The Tigers had the “Rally Possum,” so Florida’s players looked up the possum’s biggest threat in the wild. Thus, they had a stuffed animal “Rally Owl” for games between the teams.
But the rally animal trend hasn’t caught on for any other opponents. Let’s see if they come up with anything in Omaha or stay with the status quo.
“Hopefully we don’t get down, so we don’t have to rally,” catcher JJ Schwarz said.
Coastal Carolina: Rafiki
The Chanticleers have one of the most widely known rally animals in college baseball: Rafiki. He’s a monkey that they bought in a gas station on a trip back from getting swept by Georgia Tech. They have only lost two games since then, so he has stuck around.
“We saw him, and we were like we need a rally, we need something, we don’t have anything,” junior catcher/DH G.K. Young said. “Ever since then, we kind of got on fire, so we started dressing him up and he started getting real big with our fans.”
Rafiki goes everywhere the team goes – he was even a part of the team’s photoshoot on Friday. He has shoes, baseball pants, a shirt and a hat, and T-shirts have been made in his honor.
“You’d think he’s real sometimes,” Young said.
“He brightens your day a little bit,” senior outfielder Anthony Marks said. “He makes everyone giggle and laugh, and picks you up, and next thing you know it started getting more serious. … Bobby Holmes takes care of him, puts him in his book bag and carries him in the front. He’s the real deal. Every once in a while we put a banana in his hand, we feed him right.”