“How much would you pay me to drink this?” freshman infielder Colton Freeman asked.
He displayed to his teammates the water bottle which he had been using to accumulate the excess spit from the wad of chewing tobacco tucked in his lip.
Not even halfway through the bus trip to a game in Stockton, Calif., Freeman, an American River College baseball player, chugged almost five ounces of his own dip spit to the tune of $15 as the rest of his team retched with disgust and laughter.
Among the spits, swears and sex jokes, the ARC men’s baseball team appeared to be striking out in the culture department.
The culture of a sports team centers around the attitudes of the athletes, and ARC baseball head coach Doug Jumelet actively seeks to help the players on his roster to hold themselves to a higher standard.
“The part that we’re struggling with is that (the team’s effort) changes from day to day. You gotta come out every day and play it like it’s your last,” Jumelet said. “As a coach, you want to win games and play well, but the only things you can really ask for are commitment and effort.”
Jumelet and the rest of the coaching staff have the team take a knee after every game to analyze the players’ game and preach about the values they believe the team is lacking in.
Some recurring themes included selfishness, accountability, not taking it personally and a lack of intensity during practices and during games.
“If they don’t give it everything they have, that’s where I’m not going to be happy and I’m not going to accept that from them,” said Jumelet. “We need to instill a sense of pride on a daily basis and not just every once in a while, not just after I lose it and come unglued and get after them. They need to come to the field every day feeling like it’s a challenge and someone is out there trying to take something from them.”
Center fielder AJ Phillips says he and the rest of the players take their responsibility to the team seriously for the most part, but there are some inconsistencies in intensity between players.
“I would want a little more structure and more punishment,” Phillips said. “Time to time, nobody wants to be yelled at and have to run and be punished, but sometimes it’s what you need to just get everyone on the same page. I feel like it’s a little too (relaxed) out here.”
Phillips wants to see more individuals take the initiative to improve their skills to help the team progress.
“They should have the will and want to get better and be out here helping the team get better. We’re all grown men now, we’re not kids,” he added.
At 22, Phillips is the oldest player on the team. Based on the players’ ages, some immaturity can be expected to leak from the dugout.
For such a young team, most of them have an old habit: chewing tobacco.
According to the baseball coaching staff, the dean of athletics Greg Warzecka has voiced that he does not want the players chewing tobacco while on the field due to the way it may affect the team’s image.
“I think it’s more of a respect thing,” Phillips said concerning the use of tobacco on the field. “We’re out here and there’s a lot of parents and kids out here. We’re not getting paid to play. We’re out here working hard, trying to earn scholarships and it probably just looks bad. When we’re out here, we try to respect the fans.”
Phillips added that being a part of the team may have led to his choice to occasionally chew tobacco.
“I never thought I’d chew, but I kind of do now because of the guys out here do. It’s a bad habit I’ve picked up.”
Freeman may have a different opinion. Although the act made dozens gag, Freeman says drinking his own dip spit was “worth every last penny of that $15.”
No matter what, Phillips and the rest of the players display weird, gross, brotherly love toward each other because of their bonding throughout the season.
“I wouldn’t trade any of these guys for anyone else,” said Phillips.