Very superstitious: Ritualistic freshmen anchor baseball

by Connor Burton / Beacon Staff • April 3, 2014

Emerson’s men’s baseball team (3-12) has secured one more win than they did all of last season through 15 games this season. And they’re doing it with the help of fresh faces, who are using old rituals to ease their way into the collegiate game. 

“I don’t let anyone touch my glove and I consider myself a religious person, so before every inning I give a prayer, and before I get to the plate I pray,” said freshman shortstop Mitch Moormann. “I also regularly attend church, and I’ve gone twice with [Laird].

Moormann, along with pitcher Cal Laird (also a freshman), have solidified their statuses as centerpieces in the Lions’ squad as the team builds toward becoming a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference contender.

Although their win total may still be low, the Lions have a couple of reasons to be hopeful about the team’s future in the NEWMAC.

Moormann, who has started all of the Lions’ games this season, has continued to use in-game rituals he established in high school to keep himself focused and relaxed. 

Laird, whose superstitions and rituals are more extensive, has carried over the routine that he has employed since his days on his high school’s varsity team. 

“Game day I get the same meal; gotta keep breakfast consistent. I hate when people touch my arm the day of [a start],” said Laird. “I don’t like to sleep on my arm the night before a game. I hate stepping on the foul line; I always jump over it.” 

On March 22, Laird started and pitched 6.2 innings in the team’s first no-hitter in program history, a 2-0 win over Clark University.      

Laird (2-2), from Willowbrook, Illinois, a suburb west of Chicago, has started in four games for Emerson this season and secured a team-high two wins. After 24 innings pitched, also a team high, Laird has given up 14 earned runs and struck out 15 batters.

James Sullivan, a senior co-captain, said the freshmen’s consistent play has been vital to the team’s early success. 

“Cal has made an immediate impact. He works quick, throws strikes, and loves to compete. He represents all aspects of a great teammate,” Sullivan said. “Mitch is executing, going deep into counts, and swinging at strikes. The rest of us need to take that approach to get on base and win baseball games.” 

Even though they come from very different places, Laird and Moormann had similar motives for committing to Emerson.        

Laird said he looked at about 15 different schools, including one Division 1 school, Temple University, but said he was more drawn to Emerson because of Boston’s culture and history.        

“[Emerson] fit all my needs and it looked like I could manage baseball and film and the workload,” Laird said. “At the other schools I was looking at, baseball [seemed] like too much of a focus and academics is my main priority.”         

Moormann admitted that he wasn’t initially considering Emerson, but stopped by on a whim while on another trip to a local school, UMass Lowell, and was blown away. 

“Emerson just happened to have an open house and I stopped by and I realized how amazing the technology is here and I knew the school had tremendous academics,” Moormann said. “It’s hard to find a school with creativity and athletics. It’s one in a million.”

Since becoming the Lions’ go-to starter, Laird said he has definitely felt the pressure to perform his best every time he steps onto the mound.

“I am really nervous about that. It is a lot of pressure. I like dealing with pressure [and] for some reason I deal with it well,” said Laird, a visual and media arts major. “[My teammates] are supportive and I know when I step up on the mound everyone believes in me. I know if I work hard I can get through it.”        

In 15 starts, Moormann, a Miami, Fla native, has amassed 19 hits, tied for highest total on the team with senior Cal Ciarcia, and a .373 batting average, the second highest average on the team. 

Moormann, who has started all 15 games for the Lions at shortstop and seen a team high 51 at bats, also said he was feeling the pressure to lead his squad into the NEWMAC, but is taking it in stride.      

“Of course there is pressure, but the whole point is to have fun and that’s what I’m going for,” said Moormann, a sound design major. “I really want to build the team to be the best we can be. [Laird] and I want to contribute as much as we can to building this organization up.”