This past week I was tasked with writing the 2016 Rice Owls baseball season preview for the
Thresher. In constructing this piece, I searched through many online sources, including season statistics, game recaps and national polls. In doing this, I tended to gravitate towards information that portrayed the team in a positive light. However, reporting on the team’s fruitful campaigns caused me to realize that while success is most definitely welcomed and significant, it still remains just one aspect of the game of baseball.
By prioritizing success above other facets of the game, I am doing baseball — and my experiences as a manager of the team — a huge disservice. With this being said, I’ve learned that true passion and love for the game should triumph over all other aspects, including success. Awards and accolades dwindle over time, but the memories you make while playing the game you love (or being around the game, in my case) have more permanence.
This 2016 team is, no doubt, very talented. The pitchers have worked tirelessly all fall and spring to add velocity to their pitches, throw strikes and command the running game while on the mound. The hitters are also prepared. The position players have worked on tightening up their strike zone, staying on top and driving the baseball and perfecting their batting stances and techniques. Defensively, they have worked on taking ground balls, increasing their range and communicating with their teammates. The talent is there, the drive is there and I believe the Owls will be ready on Feb. 19.
The motto every season around the clubhouse is “Owlmaha.” The phrase combines Rice’s mascot and the name of the College World Series’ host town, Omaha, Nebraska. In fact, “Owlmaha 2016” is the password on my laptop. Participating in this tournament is a coveted goal of every NCAA baseball team. However, over time, we have witnessed many National Championship tournaments in which the eight competing teams are not the most talented in the country. Instead, they have a cohesiveness that distinguishes them from the competition and compensates for a relative lack of talent.
This goes to show that teams, which I believe are comprised of trusting, dedicated players, go further than simple groups of outstanding and talented players sharing a baseball field. These teams have a recognizable spirit and work ethic, something I believe is present in Rice’s 2016 baseball squad. As the season progresses, I hope this group blossoms into something truly special.
I believe the best advice this year’s team can receive is to simply “go out and have fun”: to play the game each day as if it was your last opportunity to do so; to truly find joy in playing together, motivating one another, picking each other up; and defining what it means to be a team, win or lose. The potential for greatness comes about by mastering those aspects of the game, and those attributes, I believe, result in success.