When it comes to OSU baseball, iconic traditions are at a bevy.
Some that often come to the mind of fans are the chorus of “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” by the Gap Band echoing throughout the stadium after an OSU, followed by a plastic cowboy hat fitting the head of the player in the momentary limelight.
However, as of this season, a new tradition has cemented its spot within the OSU baseball program.
As a matter of fact, it’s just weeks old.
OSU first baseman Griffin Doersching stood in a crowded Cracker Barrel with his father Greg. It was early Saturday morning, and the two had just enjoyed a family breakfast. As he began to scurry through the bevy of gifts and articles of clothing that make up the gift shop of a Cracker Barrel, he noticed a horse face on a wooden stick.
As soon as he saw it, he wanted it. Doersching, exhibiting the outgoing and elementary yet adult-like persona in which he holds, decided to make something of it, yet, didn’t know what it would be. After an extensive period of contemplation, an idea sparked in his head. When he explained it to his father, Greg was immediately baffled by his son’s choice of souvenirs.
“He looked at me and was like, ‘why’,” Doersching said. “I (told him) we were gonna ride it after we hit home runs. He just looked at me and was like, ‘OK’.”
Later that day Doersching progressively showcased it to his coaches, teammates, and even friends outside of baseball.
“Everyone loved it,” Doersching said. “Robin (Ventura) said he loved it so we decided to rock with it.”
Instantaneously, it was a hit within the baseball program. It was officially a part of the team.
“I laughed,” OSU head coach Josh Holliday said. “I thought it was funny. (It was in) good spirits, and all in alignment with what they were doing which was just having some fun with each other.”
The home run horse, as Doersching refers to it as, first came into fruition in the series finale against Baylor.
In the top of the fifth inning, with his team down two runs, true freshman right fielder Zach Ehrhard stepped up to the plate with hopes of creating a spark for his team offensively. On a 3-1 count, he crushed a ball over the left field wall at Baylor Ballpark, to make it a one run ballgame.
As Ehrhard rounded the bases, Doersching felt a self-generated sense of euphoria begin to build up within himself. He watched as Ehrhard, base-by-base, drew closer to home plate. As Ehrhard approached the visitor’s dugout after stopping on home plate with an excessive sense of satisfaction, he was greeted with the cowboy hat, which followed with the inaugural use of the home run horse.
“I was excited for (Ehrhard) after the home run obviously,” Doersching said. “But it felt kind of satisfying to finally put the (home run) horse to use.”
Holliday has been well accustomed to a bevy of team shenanigans throughout his 10 seasons as head coach of OSU. However, he says the use of home run celebrations isn’t necessarily cocky as much as it shows off his team’s unity. He believes as long as it remains in tact with his code of good sportsmanship and generates a sense of team unity, anything flies.
“I’m all for the guys finding ways to celebrate each other and have fun,” Holliday said. “To smile and embrace the moment. Those are all healthy emotions to share on the field, (they) just don’t want to get too carried away with it. But I think that our guys are handling it well and keeping it about each other and about team success.”
Traditions are what make a sport or a particular athletic program enjoyable and fun to watch. They are what build up senses of euphoria within teams and fanbases, displaying eagerness to act the same verbatim ones game-after-game.
Traditions are also what can build team unity and bring players closer to one another. It’s those displays of cohesiveness that can determine the fate of a team from the start of a season. For Holliday’s team, however, it’s the sense of unity in which he feels every day that has defined them since the season opener against Vanderbilt. It all starts with the team culture, and their team culture is coincided with a cowboy hat, and a home run horse.
“I think a huge thing in college baseball is just (team) energy,” Doersching said. “Anything you can get to draw more energy in your dugout and your team, it carries it on and is huge. That fires everyone up and gets everyone more involved because we’re going down the tunnel of people after a home run.”