Campbell baseball celebrates a year after heartbreak
Posted May 27, 2014
As all of our fellow media brethren can attest to, some stories just stick with you. For better or worse.
Exactly one year ago for myself, it was the latter. We were invited to Campbell baseball's selection show party in Lillington as the Fightin' Camels were essentially assured their first at-large bid to the NCAA Baseball Tournament in school history.
Just one problem: Ssomeone forgot to tell the selection committee. Apparently, 49 wins, fourth most in the country at that time, weren't good enough. Now, anyone of us who work in sports has seen athletes in anguish before, the "agony of defeat" typically goes hand-in-hand with the "thrill of victory." It's unavoidable.
However, there's a difference between losing at the buzzer and the mental breaking point that we had to watch CU endure for 30-some excruciating minutes backlit by the glow of an ESPN national broadcast.
Confidence was the killer. Prior to 64 teams receiving bids, I spoke with Elijah Trail and Nick Ray about their incredible run, their resume, and where they hoped to end up in the bracket. Both expressed little concern about getting the nod, heck, why would they? It was a foregone conclusion that the NCAA wasn't going to turn away a 49-win squad, right?
The original plan for the story was to do a timeline perspective leading up to their moment of glory. You know what they say about best-laid plans. So there I sat, behind the lens waiting for a celebratory shot, which never came. Instead, utter dismay and disappointment I wouldn't dare wish on any athlete. I can honestly say I watched two dozen gentlemen get their hearts broken simultaneously.
For me, a different feeling. Awkwardness. Absolute, unadulterated awkwardness. Not so much Ralph Wiggum, but Homer Simpson.
I actually wondered if it'd be possible for me to slink out of a room, in which we were cornered, hauling 65 pounds of equipment, without attracting attention. Time to be "hittin' the ol' dusty trail," if you will.
As videographers, we live for moments. Happy moments, sad moments, unforgettable moments. However, this felt like a moment that was not meant for us. I didn't want to be a part of this moment. They didn't want me to a part of this moment. No one should have to have "the worst day of their life," as relief pitcher Ryan Thompson described it, captured on camera.
It was the type of scenario which makes you as a journalist feel guilty. As if your sheer presence alone is causing unneeded, additional anguish. Hence, maybe if you inch ever so closely towards the door without any sudden movements, they'll suddenly develop Tyrannosaurus Rex-esque vision and not notice you in the first place, right? As opposed to an ear-piercing scream of "GET OUT!" which you feel like you deserve for impeding on their hurt.
However, the only greater feeling than victory may just be redemption. On Monday, Campbell got it. A year prior, a Big South Conference Championship Game defeat cost them that spot we all thought they had sewn up in the first place. Needing it, or bust, this season, the Camels shook off an early loss and ran the gauntlet to their third conference tourney title. They took the decision out of the selection committee's hands, this time.
The Camels held their watch party at the Lillington Sports Zone again, the "scene of the crime." The same venue, the same room. However, with the events of 2013 in the minds of every member who was still a part of that team, cloud nine would've been an appropriate hosting spot.
Head coach Greg Goff straight beamed with giddiness and pride for every piece of the Camels' puzzle. At multiple points during the morning, he asked us, "am I dreaming? If so, don't wake me up!" Pinch him all you want, this was no delusion, no mirage. This was just the next step in a program on the up-and-up. Three consecutive years of 40-win seasons, a new school benchmark for victories, and now, the piece de resistance, an NCAA Tournament bid, just the second in program history.
This was a moment, as a sports journalist, you wanted to be a part of. To tell a story of perseverance, a tale of redemption. One that continues this Friday in Columbia when the Camels take on the host South Carolina Gamecocks.
Currently listening to: Bleachers - "I Wanna Get Better."
Another catchy tune that's apparently getting the Godzilla-push by I Heart Radio. BTW, don't get me started on the new "Godzilla," thank the Summer movie gods for "Days of Future Past."