Eileen McCann is a junior outfielder on the Iona College softball team. This season, McCann will be taking Iona fans inside the world of not only an Iona softball player, but that of a student-athlete. After two short seasons, McCann has had a very successful career at Iona. A two-time MAAC Champion, McCann is a Mass Communications major with a concentration in Public Relations.
PLAYING TO WIN WITH NOTHING TO LOSE
Baseball season has arrived. My boy Matt Kemp and the L.A. Dodgers have opened up their season strong, taking three of four from the Padres this week. I absolutely love baseball, it’s my favorite sport and just about the only one I understand as I am probably the most ignorant person you could watch a basketball or football game with. While I do follow the other teams here at Iona and hope for their success just as much as the next Gael, it comes as no surprise that I follow our baseball team’s season closer than any other, and I have done so since my freshman year.
Our baseball team is, no doubt, the underdogs of the Gaels. Their past two seasons have begun with much promise, yet ended with a losing record. As a fan the team can often be frustrating to watch. To see the team outmatch the majority of its opponents in pure talent and skill and get beat is disheartening. As a player I can imagine it would damn near drive you crazy. You would never know it, though. I’ve rarely seen any of the players hang their head, or freak out, or turn on one another, as so many teams do, when their season doesn’t go the way they had hoped. They took a big W from Michigan early on this season, and you’d have never known it by the way the carried themselves around campus, probably because they knew that one solitary win wasn’t enough to get them where they needed to be, and even still they had to keep working. Their demeanor stays even; they don’t let their wins get them too high, or their losses get them too low, and that is what puts them in a position to win their next game at all times.
Off the field, they work harder towards their physical well-being than any team that I’ve seen. The boys know that, given their program’s history, they have a lot of things working against them, and they take advantage of any opportunity they can to get a leg up on the competition. It is in these ways that I most admire our baseball team and wish that we, the softball team, were more like them. They, just like us, have been playing the game since they were in diapers, knowing it both backwards and forwards, yet they recognize the potential in each day to get better and, from what I see, try to take advantage of it by working out, running, or taking hitting/fielding reps on their own. It’s these little things that allow a team to hold strong, keep their composure in the bottom of the ninth (or seventh), and pull out a big conference win. I witnessed the guys accomplish exactly that this past Saturday.
As the Gaels’ self-proclaimed number one fan, it kills me that our seasons clash and I only get to see a handful of games each year. By some force of nature, we didn’t have games this weekend, and were given Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off for Easter. Beth Kann and I road-tripped upstate and watched the boys play their third game of the series vs. Siena. They had split the past two games, and needed to get this second win to keep them up in the conference standings after their series with Manhattan. They got up 1-0 early in the first inning and tacked on three more throughout the rest of the game. They got in a jam in the bottom of the ninth. After Siena tightened the deficit to 4-3, the boys were only a base hit away from losing the game. They stayed strong, turned a double-play and took home a huge win from the Saints, possibly serving as a turning point of their season. The game itself proved to be a tough test for the Gaels. At some point in those nine innings each person in the lineup stepped up and did something big for the cause; a sac bunt, clutch hit, cleanly fielded ball, or just throwing strikes and letting the defense go to work. I left that game so hyped up, feeling as if my own team had won.
Anyone can look at the standings and see that we have had success in our past two seasons and that the baseball team hasn’t had as much as they would have liked. But what the stats don’t show is the heart, determination, and grit that are displayed in each game, regardless of the outcome. It is here, more so than anywhere else, that our squad can learn from the boys.
While we play knowing that we’re expected to win, they play with absolutely nothing to lose. With a powerhouse senior class, the boys play knowing each game is bringing them closer to their last, and they have no intention of ending their season early. It is this mindset that I believe will take them deep into the playoffs, and maybe even a shot at the 2012 MAAC ‘ship.
Softball is not the only team makin’ a run at it this year, Gael fans. Ya’ll better get on board.