Every year, my wife and I plan to go away on vacation after the sports year is over. It's something of a summer kickoff for us, and it's the reward for putting in long hours from September through May. For me, it's a way to recognize the downstream hard work impact of working game after game for a number of different schools across a variety of sports.
When we were looking at vacation dates, we originally looked at May but eventually pushed back into June. She knew May would interfere with some games, and it got a little too hectic. When we finally booked, she looked at me and said, "You're sure you have nothing that week, right?"
I'll never forget my response: "You know, it's the NCAA baseball tournament, but I don't know that BC will be playing that late into the year."
If you'll excuse me, I have egg to go wash off my face.
I love this BC team, and there is a genuine appreciation and affection I have for this team. I think these guys are incredible human beings, class acts, and even better ambassadors for the institution. I knew they were good enough to get into the ACC Tournament on the field, and I knew of the closeness in the locker room. I knew they could probably go to the NCAA Tournament.
But to be a game away from a trip to Omaha? Realistically, the deck was stacked.
So here I am now, on vacation, getting ready to watch Boston College baseball play for a chance to go to the College World Series. The true underdog, a program fighting against the tide in the ACC, has a chance to make sure the clock doesn't strike 12 on Cinderella. They have an opportunity to do something even the most fervent supporters of baseball can't say they thought was possible.
Along the way, Boston College baseball captured the hearts and minds of its fans. New heroes emerged, and new names became household. People became intrigued by the talent levels on the team, which for the most part lived in the shadows of the sports area. Once they found out that these guys weren't so bad, they latched onto them.
Everyone has their favorite player at this point. There's Justin Dunn, the first round pick with the 95 mph fastball. There's Johnny Adams, the regional most outstanding player nicknamed the "Pup." There's Mike King, the ace who became the number two when Dunn emerged, the old time baseball surgeon for people who like a pitcher who works quick. There's Nick Sciortino, the laser-armed catcher.
And, of course, there's Pete Frates, the director of baseball operations. Everyone is learning now that Pete's ALS struggle is more than just a bucket of ice poured over their head. It's something that bears witness to the very soul of 35 young men playing for something bigger than themselves. It examines the very emotional impact of how people can step up and develop a relationship both in spite of and because of something so much bigger than themselves.
The fact remains that this Boston College team simply doesn't know how to quit. That attitude is the exact reason why everyone these days is turning into a fan. Down nine runs in the ninth? Keep grinding. Rain delay when you're up one in the ninth? Keep grinding. Losing in the regional second round? Keep grinding. It's a throwback to a time when sports weren't flashy but were played the right way. When you combine that attitude with the selfless friendship everyone in the team has with Pete Frates, it all of a sudden now has a life of its own.
It's no shock that a team like that could make it this far, except it is because this isn't "supposed to happen" at Boston College. BC baseball is underfunded compared to the rest of their league, and the NCAA Baseball Tournament is an exercise in glamour. Miami has 44 consecutive national tournament berths, and they're playing for their 25th College World Series. They have a stadium that was renovated with $4 million from Alex Rodriguez.
BC is a team that plays on a parking lot. They battle snow early in the year. They play the majority of their games on the road or at neutral sites because of that. They don't have indoor cages, and you could make an incredibly compelling case that they have worse facilities than teams in the Patriot League or the Ivy League right now. People argued BC should drop baseball because they couldn't see this happening, and more importantly they probably didn't want to believe it was possible because logically it wasn't.
But that's exactly what's playing out. A team that doesn't have the resources, doesn't have the recruits, and doesn't have the geography has a chance to play as one of eight teams competing for the national championship if they can win today.
BC could easily lose this game because everything is 50-50 in a one-game playoff. If they do, then they do. Either way, this team proved so much to everyone. They showed us exactly what it takes and what kind of heart beats within the Birdball program. From the coaches to the players, this year will go down as the year where BC said, in the words of Jay-Z when Justin Dunn pitches, "Allow me to reintroduce myself." And you know what? That was pretty darn cool.
That said, let's hope the ride continues. And in the future? Let's hope sustainability helps push vacation plans back another few weeks.