It’s common for coaches to play certain movies for their teams on road trips to deliver a particular message or impart some inspiration.
It may be a bit more unusual, though, to play the same movie on each and every trip as the Coastal Carolina baseball team has done this season.
For all the experienced seniors and juniors on this team, coach Gary Gilmore felt his squad was lacking something intangible and so he has had the players watch “Bull Durham” – the 1988 Kevin Costner baseball flick – over and over and over again.
“Even though they’re an older group, I’ve always thought they didn’t a have a ton of true baseball old-school savvy,” Gilmore explained Sunday. “So my assistant Matt Schilling, for the whole year every single time we go on the road on the bus, he plops in ‘Bull Durham.’ So every great baseball cliche, every great one liner you can think of is in that movie. If it’s a six-hour trip, as soon as it plays one time, he pops it right back in and it plays again. If we’ve watched it once, we’ve watched it 25 times. It’s incredible. Every time we watch it we win.
“I think a lot of what they have going on now is a lot of that, that old crazy baseball superstition stuff going on that, hey, if it works keep doing it.”
Whatever the Chanticleers (53-17) are doing, it’s working exceedingly well.
Heck, Rafiki has become a part of who we are, to be very honest with you. Those kids, they’re not going to the park, they’re not getting on the bus, they’re not doing anything without that monkey going with us.
CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore
They’ve won 19 of their last 21 games and 22 out of 25 and now take on Arizona in the College World Series finals, starting a best-of-three series Monday night at TD Ameritrade Park at 7 p.m. ET.
And if there is one safe bet for these remaining games, it’s that Rafiki the rally monkey will get some prime air time on ESPN.
Gilmore was asked how he evolved as a coach to the point of embracing a giant stuffed animal in the dugout and, last game, an inflatable shark of some sort.
He could only laugh at that question.
“If you had told me I’d ever get to that point a few years ago, I would have laid a lot of money against it,” Gilmore said. “This team kind of just evolved into that, to be honest with you. They were looking for something and Rafiki came along and it just started to catch on.”
The legend of Rafiki has been well told at this point as the Chants picked up the stuffed monkey at a truck stop in Georgia after being swept in a three-game series at Georgia Tech, which immediately preceded that stretch of 22 wins in 25 games.
And if the shark is going to help as well, why not?
“Heck, Rafiki has become a part of who we are, to be very honest with you,” Gilmore said. “Those kids, they’re not going to the park, they’re not getting on the bus, they’re not doing anything without that monkey going with us. It’s incredible. It just keeps the moment in perspective, to be very honest with you. Anybody tells you every now and then it isn’t hard to breathe out there, they’re not being truthful with you. I mean we all put a lot into it. It can be nerve-wracking at times and it’s just great to have a moment to laugh or whatever in-between all that stuff going on.
“Again, I don’t think I’ve ever met a baseball player who wasn’t superstitious to a certain degree and you bring a monkey along one day and you start playing better, you keep winning, you keep winning, the monkey gets bigger. It’s a crazy thing. ...
“It’s one of the things we learned in ‘Bull Durham’ – you don’t mess with a streak.”