“Now batting, number 25, Ian Kimbrell,” exclaims the public address announcer.
At this moment, Lambert junior Parker Scruggs has a job to do.
He fastens his waistband, takes a deep breath and lifts his arms in the air.
“It’s time,” he’ll relay to his teammates. As the batter approaches the plate, Scruggs is lifted into the air over the railing of the Lambert dugout—it takes five players to maintain Scruggs as high as possible without expending too much muscle power.
They call it the “Circle of Life.” A play off the Disney classic, the 5-foot-8 Scruggs has to be prepared to perform this stunt whenever teammate Ian Kimbrell approaches the plate. It’s just one of many responsibilities shared by what Lambert’s baseball team simply calls #Squad.
“Our squad is an honor to be a part of. If you aren’t on the Squad, you aren’t a leader,” Kimbrell said.
Kimbrell, a senior first baseman, has been retired from Squad while starting at first base for the Longhorns this season. No starters are allowed to claim part of Squad, but they all must graduate from it on their way to the Longhorn’s starting lineup.
“It’s the best part of the game,” said senior and Squad member Matt Vonderschmidt. “The starters are all jealous.”
Dugout antics are a rite of passage in baseball and in the intimate communities of Forsyth County, the caliber of baseball program is not only measured by wins and losses, but by creativity, endurance and passion behind the dugout fence.
To stay focused, Lambert’s team has a different routine for each count. They encourage fellow students to show up to games in giant banana suits – anything to distract the opponent as much as possible.
“It brings a lot of women to the games and it looks pretty good on your resume,” said Lambert’s Brady Ballstadt.
But Lambert isn’t the undisputed dugout champion, that’s at least not according to the #BenchMob at Forsyth Central.
An anonymous player who runs the Central Crazies Twitter account told FCN, “The #BenchMob is the undisputed best dugout in Forsyth” and claimed their antics once prompted an opposing pitcher to stop play and complain.
Central’s Wade Smith says the politely obnoxious heckling that comes from the Bulldogs’ dugout is persistent and effective.
“We by far have the best dugout in the county,” Smith said. “I love hearing the bench mob yell when we strike someone out. They keep us in every game.”
At North Forsyth, the Raiders don’t have a name for their dugout. They think that would dilute the character of the individuals within it.
Trevor Rhys said the Raiders have alternative dugout personalities that include Hornito, Fun Uncle Rico, Duwayne, and the Ole Country Boys (Jim Bob and Goat Man). He would not disclose the identities.
Rhys says that the greatest asset to North’s dugout is starting pitcher Caleb Dixon, who also serves as the designated animal noise extraordinaire.
Dixon said whale and wombat noises have become his specialty.
South also likens its dugout identity to rodents. South’s Nick Caprio said the “Beaver Brotherhood” has a hand full of distractions for pitchers, but nothing has become more paramount than the “hit stick” used to simply smack against the dugout wall whenever the team strings together runs.
Vonderschmidt said that the dugout antics from school to school in the county have become ultra-competitive, and that credit should be given where credit is due.
“We do signs and different things for each count, but I think North and South stole our ones,” Vonderschmidt said.
When asked just how intense the antics can get, Vonderschmidt replied: “We make kids not want to play baseball.”
There’s lighthearted, behind-the-scenes routines as well, such as teammate-to-teammate, off-air talk shows, hat stacking and contests to see who can wear the most sunglasses.
Lambert’s Jake Tomelevage has been pictured online wearing as many as 10 pairs of sunglasses at once, though the team insisted that was an unofficial record.
West gets in on the action as well, though chooses to remain low key.
When the FCN put in an inquiry about West’s players, the only response was a message reading “DMATB.”
Matt Moon represented West in saying, “DMATB takes this, no question” and that it stood for “Dirty Mike and the Boys.” Mike Pruitt is the West head coach. There were no further comments.