Superstition in baseball is nothing new, but the 22-10 Gophers have developed their own style.
No, there’s no live praying mantis, like the one in the dugout of the Kansas City Royals – known as the Rally Mantis – which helped the team in a stretch that saw 18 victories out of 22 games.
No one wears a thong to get out of a slump at the plate – like Jason Giambi used to do – but there are still simple and effective routines that the team has employed when things are going well.
A well-producing lineup, a nearly flawless defense and a consistent bullpen are the logistic reasons for Minnesota’s success, there’s some superstition involved, too.
“Usually we would pray in fair territory before the game. We decided we were kind of struggling, we were like ‘Let’s go to foul territory and pray,’ and that’s when we went on a 12-game winning streak,” said junior Toby Hanson.
The team prayed in foul territory before its victory against South Dakota State on Tuesday.
Hanson said that is not the only routine that has developed over the streak – some traditions have even gone by the wayside.
Before, the position players would have a hitter’s meeting with the hitting coach, Patrick Casey, before every game. Casey got sick before a game against Sacramento State on March 17, so there was no meeting that day. That was the first win of the 12-game win streak.
“Ever since then…he would ask ‘You guys want to do a hitter’s meeting today?’ and we’d say no. We’re playing well, let’s not ruin it,” Hanson said.
On an individual level, a few players have minor things they do to try to ensure success on the field, no matter how trivial.
“Since I’ve been pitching well I’ve been keeping this,” senior Tyler Hanson said while stroking his goatee. “The girlfriend doesn’t like it, the parents don’t like it, but I’m gonna keep it going.”
Tyler Hanson said he doesn’t personally believe that the beard makes him pitch better, but since it’s working, he’ll continue to let it grow.
Not every player has routines or rituals they do regularly. Senior Toby Anderson said he has no superstitions before his starts.
“Every outing’s a little different. Every team you play is a little different…we always preach sticking to the process,” he said.
He admits that before starts he won’t eat very much, but there’s nothing he feels like he has to do before every outing.
Whether it’s the whole team or just one player, most superstitious routines start because of trying to change a bad result, or trying to maintain a good one.
Toby Hanson had this sort of dilemma with Tuesday’s game when he considered changing his walk-up song from "Congratulations" by Post Malone.
“[On Tuesday] I was kind of struggling, and then I said I was going to change my walk-up song,” he said.
In his final at-bat of the game, he hit an RBI triple down the right-field line.
“So now I’m probably going to stick with it,” he said.