Key to winning at World Series — staying loose
The head coach wears Chucks and mismatched socks.
And when “Cotton-Eye Joe” is played at the stadium, Danny Murphy hops over the dugout fence and dances along, then hops back in to high-fives.
The backup catcher wears a pink Mohawk wig, and most of the players — and the coach — have Mohawk haircuts.
“A friend was dogging me about my footwear one day, so she bought me some Chucks,” Jefferson (Mo.) College coach Sam Carel said Monday after the Vikings won their second game of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
Look closely under the long uniform pants, and you’ll see his gray Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers.
“One day (last season) we were struggling, and the guys said, ‘Coach, break out the Chucks for the game,’ and I did,” Carel said. “I wear them all the time. This year as we were driving the bus two weeks during regionals and districts, the guys were telling me, ‘Coach, you’re wearing the Chucks.’ “
The Vikings won their regional tournament, and the district title, so at 2-0 in the JUCO World Series, he’s not about to take them off now.
“It’s gonna be three (games) in a row now. I’ll take anything right now,” he said. “We’re 2-0, I’ll take anything. If you’ve got something else for me to wear, I’ll wear it.”
The Vikings wear red shoes, but Carel nixed red Chucks.
“We decided to stick with the gray; they’re not too flamboyant,” he said.
The shoes are one thing, but then you see the socks.
“How sweet are those?” he said, laughing as he pulled up his pants leg and showed ... wait for it ...
And they don’t match. Blue on the right, red on the left.
“These were the matching pair last year that I wore,” he said, pointing to the blues. “I’ve got to keep the Series socks, so I kept that one, and the new one this year. My friend gave me those as well. I’ve got mismatched socks all the time. Whatever works.”
It’s all part of the biggest key to winning at the national level — staying loose.
When the coach is calm, cool and collected, even a little bit goofy, the team usually follows suit.
At Iowa Western, normal is having coach Marc Rardin’s sons on the team bus and on the field playing catch. They even take batting practice with the Reivers.
As for the pink Mohawk, that was a gift from a woman at Allen Unique Autos, where the Vikings had lunch Saturday with their hosts. Catcher Jeff Kammer saw it next to a photo booth.
“And right next to it is this box of stuff,” he said, emphasizing “stuff” as if he’d struck gold. “Just all kinds of hats, everything.”
Bright pink and yellow, it was the perfect addition to the team ‘do.
Brendon Neel said a woman at Allen Unique Autos saw Kammer wearing the wig and told him to take it and wear it at the game that night.
“He’s crazy,” Neel said. “He saw it, he put it on, she said take it, and he just kept it on ever since then.”
Carel doesn’t have a problem with the wig.
“That’s who Jeff Kammer is,” Carel said. “We told our guys from the get-go: Be comfortable in your own skin. Respect what’s going on, but be who you are, and that’s Jeff Kammer, right there. We love that stuff. I’d be more worried if they’re not doing stuff like that, to be honest with you.”
Carel took off his cap to reveal he has joined his players in some of the fun.
“That’s why I got a Mohawk, baby!” he said. “It’s a fun group to be around. They know how to have fun, but they also know how to play hard. And that’s all that matters. Have fun and play hard, man.”
Even down to the funky socks and unconventional shoes.
“It’s been his thing all year long,” shortstop Brett Wiley said Monday. “We don’t expect any different from him. We get a chuckle out of it, but we’re used to it.
“He’s a good coach, he’s always been one of our friends, and he’s really helped us along this year, kept us cool and calm, and that really helped in games like today.
“It’s easy to be relaxed around this team. We’re having a lot of fun. We’re enjoying it out here, and when we do that, we hope we keep winning games, too.”