Excuse Joe Walsh, for the moment, for sounding one part proud and one part pooped.
“Here at Harvard,” says Harvard’s nine-year baseball coach on a chilly March morning across the river, “we welcome all the personalities that we can get.”
Walsh’s voice, both content and fatigued at this revelation, speaks the truth. His mixed bag of base-ballers range from the humble to the showy, the laid-back to the lay-it-out. They come from a list of locales so wide and varied that it might make Howard Dean antsy. Try blending this kind of mixture in a sport like baseball—distinct positions, varied roles and all—and forging a team out of spare parts turns out to be a more tricky proposition than you might think.
“It takes some time,” Walsh says, shifting in his chair. “It really does.”
Coming into the 2004 spring season, Walsh will look to get a head start on fine-tuning team unity with the baseball equivalent of two multi-tool hex sets—a pair of returning stars whose assorted abilities on the team go far beyond even their impressive natural talents.
You see, senior Trey Hendricks and sophomore Lance Salsgiver—the team’s best two pro prospects according to Baseball America—both pitch and hit. Starring on the mound and at the plate, they take on both roles like few in recent Harvard history have.
This year, they’ll become the first pair of Harvard teammates in years to combine regular mound time with every-day at-bats. Hendricks, the accomplished senior from Texas, completes the infield at first base when he’s not pitching. Salsgiver, the flashy youngster from Flint, completes the outfield in right.
Both expatriated from their home states, turning down shots at bigger and better major college baseball—not to mention the prospect of skipping college entirely to head to the minors—for a chance to don crimson. They both lead more with their prodigious skills than with their mouths. The two have generated buzz among scouts since they were teenagers, and arguably have the most pro potential of any of Harvard’s spring athletes.
So what do you think of them, coach? The solution to baseball’s personality disorder? The cure to the Crimson’s schizophrenic kinks? Baseball’s identical twins?
“Absolutely not,” Walsh says, chuckling.
Frank Herrmann, who joined Hendricks and Salsgiver on the pitching staff this year, agrees. “Those guys really could not be any more different,” he says.
Never mind, naysayers. Hendricks and Salsgiver, those brothers in arms and bats, have in common a quality that, in the game of baseball, knows no cerebral or geographic boundaries.
“They both get it done and that’s all that really matters at the end of the day,” Herrmann says.
At the end of the year, the Crimson will rely on that quality to soothe the team’s quirks and patch together an Ivy Championship.
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