By Harlan Nemerofsky
Kicking his cleats in the dirt, Ben Rich walks back and forth with a gleeful smile on his face.
Though it’s his team’s first regular season in the league and his players are visibly nervous, Rich is talking to fans through the chain-link fence and joking around with the players.
“I remember he would make fun of [me] and everyone would start laughing about it, and then I would say something about him and everyone would start laughing at it,” said Rams outfielder Nathan Shiwicharan.
It’s the way that Rich, head coach and visionary of the Rams, approaches any game of baseball, no matter how big or small.
“Emotions were running pretty high for everybody,” said Rich.
“But the key for the coaches was to keep players’ emotions in check because regardless if it’s our first or second exhibition game, this is the same game we’ve played before.” After Rich calmed his players down, they went out and performed, defeating the Guelph Gryphons 4-3 last Friday in the program’s first-ever official varsity game.
“Nobody expected big things from us, but beating the Guelph Gryphons, who were the secondbest team last season, really sends a message,” said second baseman Mark Tari, who scored the winning run for the Rams.
“For us to step in and play a really good game was really surprising to a lot of people.” The resiliency of the Rams was on full display. They rallied down 2-1 to take the lead in the fifth inning and eventually scored the winning run in the ninth inning after Guelph tied it up at three in the eighth.
“The team has really rallied around building a program from the ground up and they really get along well,” said Rich. “Even though it’s been a very strong chemistry from the get-go, it’s pretty incredible of how well they’ve unified.” The idea to create a new team was pitched by Rich last year and the vision became reality last January when Ryerson Athletics gave it the green light. After weekend training sessions throughout the summer for those that were give conditional spots on the team, the final roster was announced at the end of last month.
“We have to have a strong attitude as a team and a good sense of character and work-ethic,” said Rich.
Two practices, two exhibition games and one league game later, the Rams seem to have bought into his game plan.