A Call To Arms

No matter who you are – your gender, ethnicity, country of origin, or age – if you win something big, you will raise your arms in victory.

Doesn’t matter who you are … your arms go up. It’s hardwired in you.

(The scientists who study this would want me to tell you that the arm-raise often comes with a chest puff and a shout. They call this behavior the “dominance threat display.”)

Researchers studying the activities of blind Para-Olympians discovered the very same thing. They raise their arms, too.

Even though most of these blind people had never seen anyone else do it, they instinctively raised their arms with joy upon winning a competition.

The feeling of winning, it seems, is uniformly uniform.

In other experiences, we’re individuals. The foods we like, the people we’re drawn to, what makes us laugh. We’re all a little different.

Except when we win.

When we win, we throw our arms in the air.

So, on June 24, when University of Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby soundly struck out Kyle Smith of Vanderbilt looking, ending the College World Series and bringing UVa their first-ever national baseball championship, Kirby did exactly what evolution told him to do.

Allow Nathan Kirby, now a member of the Milwaukee Brewers organization, to demonstrate the “dominance threat display.”

But, here’s the funny thing.

I was sitting a thousand miles away from Omaha, watching on television. And, I raised my arms, too.

(I may have also whoo’d. Can’t remember. Sometimes I skip the whoos because I don’t want to annoy the cats.)

You may wonder why it has taken me more than a month to tell you that UVa won the College World Series.

I’m not sure I know the answer.

I’ve never really had a team I follow win anything like this before, so I’m not sure how to throw my arms up in the air on a blog without sounding gloaty or pompous or just annoying.

I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

(Dear Vanderbilt fans, I’m very sorry the Hoos beat you.)

(Dear Everybody Else, I’m not really, but I just don’t know what else to say to them.)

UVa wasn’t expected to win. Heck, they weren’t even expected to go to the post-season. They barely made it to their own ACC tournament and, frankly, they were awfully stinky once they got there.

But, baseball is a funny game and on any given day a team can suddenly find the rhythm they’ve been missing all season.

If you still don’t believe how improbable this was, just take a look at the tee-shirt that the NCAA had to hastily doctor to celebrate Virginia’s win.

ncaa teeshirt

Thanks, Ron! :)

Yes, the UVa championship tee-shirt … features Vanderbilt gold.

vandy logo

UVa logo

Thanks, NCAA.

I know it was a month ago, but I still want to share three special moments from UVa’s post-season.

Because, like throwing your arms in the air, these three moments are universally wonderful, regardless of whether you’re a UVa fan, or a college baseball fan, or any baseball fan (except, maybe, Vanderbilt’s).

1) That Smack Down.

In Game 2 of the Super Regionals in Charlottesville on June 5, the Hoos entered the bottom of the 9th down 4-2 to the University of Maryland. It was must-win for Maryland. The Terps starting pitcher, who had pretty much shut down the Hoos all day, loads the bases. No outs. Maryland brings in their can’t-fail closer Kevin Mooney.  He walks in a run. 4-3.  And then, UVa freshman Ernie Clement does this …

ernie clement supers

Check out Clement after the hit (at 1:41). 

Former UVa Hoo and current Oakland A reliever Sean Doolittle helpfully provides the part I’d like you to watch again.

An exceptional display of victory arms, don’t you think?  The smack-down? That’s junior Kevin Doherty.

I believe this is a lesson for all of us. Throwing your arms in the air can feel really good if you’ve just won a trip to the College World Series. But, it puts you in a tough spot should a jubilant teammate wish to make you the flaky crust of a dogpile pie.

2) That Play.

UVa senior Kenny Towns has been “Old Reliable” down at third throughout his college career.

When the Angels picked him late in the 20th round of the MLB draft this year, I thought, wow, they just got themselves a player that’s much, much better than any scout realizes.

(When you see Towns and Trout in the same lineup someday, you’ll think back and say, “That Baseball Bloggess sure was right. I bet she’s cute, too.”)

After the Series I had more people email, text, and mention this play to me than any other. And, they’re right. I love amazing plays in the hot corner. And, this one was nasty, hot, and sweet like when you tell the waiter you want your vindaloo “Indian hot” and he believes you.

3) That Dogpile.

Baseball Prospectus determined that the first World Series dogpile – run, jump, fall into a heap – was done by the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals. 

Take a look … victory arms, dogpiling, fans swarming the field. Wait? Fans swarming the field? What kind of savages were we? Watch here.

Prior to ’82, there was a lot of running, hugging, and weird, awkward jumping around. But, no dogpiles. Prior to 1962, most winning teams didn’t even stick around to hoot and holler. The game ended and they simply ran off the field to party in the clubhouse.

So, celebratory dogpiles are younger than my little Metropolitan dumpling Bartolo Colon (look, I’ve mentioned him again!).

I’m not sure that this is the most perfect, wonderful dogpile in baseball history.

Wait. I’ve watched it again.

Yup.

It is.

 

10 thoughts on “A Call To Arms

  1. Celebrating great plays and an exciting, so unexpected championship can never be called gloating. Thanks for the opportunity to revisit this wonderful event.

  2. Enjoying a championship isn’t bragging at all, celebrating is what it’s all about. You simply have to take advantage of a situation like this, because you never know when one will come along again. Congrats again to Virginia.
    -Mike

    • And, there are no real “dynasties” in college ball, which is a good thing mostly … unless you happen to the be the team that just won. I was surprised by how few rematches there are in the College World Series, like UVa and Vanderbilt this year. But, that’s the nature of the temporary student-athlete. Ahh well, I’ll savor being #1 for a few more months! :)

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