Legion waiting game: Late start gives Rowan time to relax
By Bret Strelow
GREENVILLE ó Raindrops hadn’t started falling yet, but Rowan County American Legion baseball coach Jim Gantt was already relaxing on his hotel bed shortly after 2 p.m. on Monday.
Four stories below, visible from the corner window in Gantt’s dimly lit room, pitching coach Travis McSweeney and Sunday starter Billy Veal were treading water in the deepest end of the outdoor pool.
An afternoon shower arrived in the next hour. More importantly, so did Rowan’s chartered bus.
Post 342 finally took the field for its third game of the state tournament after 9 p.m. on Monday night. Players had plenty of time to pass in anticipation of the first pitch.
“It’s kind of tough waiting around because the game’s in front of you,” Gantt said. “You don’t really know when you’re going to play. It’s scheduled for a certain time, but it’s always delayed in a tournament. You don’t know when to feed them where you don’t have to eat again.
“For most of them, this is kind of going to be their vacation for the summer. I hope we win and have to do it again next week.”
Rowan, approaching the conclusion of its seemingly non-stop schedule, remains in legitimate contention for a state title. The champion advances to next week’s Southeast Regional in Sumter, S.C.
Rowan’s debut in the double-elimination event at ECU occurred on an action-packed Saturday afternoon, and the team played a waiting game for much of the next two days.
“There’s nothing on Mondays in the afternoons on TV, so we’re pretty much playing video games for like 12 straight hours,” second baseman Philip Miclat said.
Rowan players were able to exhaust much of their down time in that manner because Miclat’s Xbox accompanied the team on the 210-mile trip from Salisbury.
The bus that transported the squad to Greenville was unavailable for a chunk of the day because of a broken air-conditioner, so the team walked to lunch after meeting in the hotel lobby at noon.
Rowan’s coaches had planned to give Veal, the pitching star of a 6-2 win against Cherryville on Sunday night, the option of choosing where to eat.
“If the bus would have been here, we would have taken it anywhere he wanted to go,” said Rowan team manager Bob Lowman, Gantt’s roommate in Greenville. “He didn’t have the option because we didn’t have the bus.”
Proximity became a priority, so players picked between a nearby Subway and Jersey Mike’s.
Once Veal had time to digest his food, he resurfaced alongside McSweeney at the pool.
Veal threw 127 pitches the previous night, and treading water served as his post-start workout. McSweeney, who is walking with the help of crutches as he recovers from a broken ankle, also entered the 5-foot-deep corner of the pool and used a stopwatch to monitor Veal’s progress.
“He needs to do something today to flush out the lactic acids in his arms and his legs,” McSweeney said.
The bus ó with Rowan’s equipment still on board ó returned to the hotel parking lot well ahead of the team’s departure time, which shifted from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. because of a rain delay that prolonged the first of three scheduled games.
The bus, en route to ECU, rolled onto Moye Boulevard at exactly 6:07 p.m.
Miclat was happy to hit the road.
“My room is a pigsty because everybody comes in there,” he said. “It smells terrible.”