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Anthony Chiusano | NCAA.com | June 21, 2019

The story behind Vanderbilt baseball's between-inning antics in the outfield

JJ Bleday continues his hot hitting in Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. — Every baseball game has a seventh-inning stretch. At Vanderbilt games, there's also fifth inning yoga.

If you're at a 2019 College World Series game in Omaha this week while Vanderbilt is in action, make sure to pay attention to the outfield grass in between innings while the Commodores retake the field. You'll see all sorts of peculiar activities from yoga to rock-paper-scissors games while warm-up pitches are being thrown.

During the two-minute break in action, a number of Vanderbilt reserves jog out on the field to stretch in a circle. What mini-game follows next depends on the inning. 

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Take Wednesday's 6-3 win over Mississippi State in the College World Series, for example. In the fifth inning, you could see some members of the Commodores participating in an abbreviated yoga session, including a casual headstand from reserve outfielder Walker Grisanti while Isaiah Thomas jumped through his open legs. Inning 6? A fully coordinated star formation of laying bodies. Inning 7 and 8? Rapid-fire rock-paper-scissors battles.

Vandy

Vanderbilt (2-0) is having plenty of fun so far in Omaha, and that extends to the players without an at-bat.

“We just have fun out there and try to stay loose,” Grisanti said in the locker room after Wednesday's win.

These routines aren't new. They've been a Vanderbilt tradition among reserve juniors and seniors for a decade-plus, though some of the games have evolved. Back in 2014, NCAA.com took an inside look at that team's football and ping pong routines, among others.

Grisanti and junior Kiambu Fentress are among the ring leaders in 2019 activities. According to both players, the routines are switched up from game-to-game except for certain constants: yoga in the fifth; campfire circles and rock-paper-scissors in the seventh and eighth.

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Those campfire talks are a preference of Fentress, an outfielder with eight at-bats this season.

“[My favorite is] when we sit on our butts and don’t do anything," Fentress said. "That’s probably the best one. Just chill out and enjoy the sun.”  

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Yoga is Grisanti's favorite. He claims his first-ever headstand came right on the field during one of these sessions, without any prior practice. 

"It used to be Tyler Brown [doing a headstand], but he’s always in the bullpen, so I had to take over for him,” he said. “I really just tried it and I just got it... It wasn’t hard for me, I just tried it a couple times.”

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As for rock-paper-scissors, there's an ongoing battle for supremacy. On Wednesday, Fentress got the better of Grisanti. Grisanti claims that he's in a funk here in Omaha after "winning like 30 in a row." Fentress disagreed on that last point.

“That’s false. He won five in a row, then I won one. Ever since then, I’ve been tapping that butt,” Fentress clarified.

Vanderbilt's games within the game will continue Friday as the Commodores look to lock up a spot in the College World Series finals with one more win.

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Division I
College World Series
June 13-23/24, 2020
TD Ameritrade Park | Omaha, NE

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