Hello and welcome back!
Time flies when you're having fun, and that couldn't be truer for this season – and pretty much the past five years as well. We hosted our final conference series against George Mason University last weekend at Bill Beck Field, where – although we were excited to be in the position we were in as a team approaching the A-10 tournament – it was a bittersweet moment for me and the other seniors.
On Saturday, Matt O'Neil, Jesse Lee, Martin Figueroa, Blaise Whitman, Mike Corin and I were recognized by coaches, teammates and other athletic department staff members for our endless work and dedication to the program in a pregame Senior Day ceremony. It was a great ceremony for us, but at the same time, it just was so surreal… like I still can't completely wrap my head around the fact that we will be graduating this upcoming weekend.
I can remember moving into Gorham Hall, Room 102, back in 2012 and saying goodbye to my family. I remember the first thing I did was go down to the barn to go work out and meet all the other freshman on the team for the first time. I can remember going around with guys like Mike, Jesse, and Blaise – who were with me during that time – and going to Barlow Circle at night just to hang and meet new people for the first couple of nights.
Looking back on the past five years, it's been a wild journey. Coach always tells us, "You won't remember every game, but you'll remember the guys on the team and the little things that went on between the games."
One story that comes to my mind was the ride home from Stony Brook back in 2014. Coach Cerrato was our assistant coach at the time, and Coach Foster was the head coach. I remember heading down to Stony Brook in three URI vans – we actually drove to somewhere in Connecticut and then caught the ferry over to New York. We showed up a little late to the field, and I remember talking to Blaise, asking him if he was pitching that day… and he said he thought that I was.
So, being young redshirt-freshmen, we probably should have asked earlier. The game was scheduled to start at 3:30 pm, and I specifically remember checking my phone at 3:05, still having no idea who was pitching. So, I went up to Coach Foster to ask and he told me that it was me, and sorry he forgot to tell me.
I didn't even play long toss that day, I just got onto a mound and started throwing. Go figure, it ended up being one of my better games that season, going 6+ innings and giving up three runs, I believe.
Anyway, we ended up losing the game on a walk-off and it was a tough loss to swallow. We had to catch the 6:00 pm ferry back to Connecticut, and our game ended at 5:50 pm, so we had to shake hands and rush to the vans to catch the ferry.
We finally pull into the ferry station, and literally as we're pulling in, we see the ferry leave the dock. We've missed the ferry, and the next one out isn't for another two hours. So we wait.
A few hours later, we dock in Connecticut… HAHAHA I swear, I will never forget this story…
Our former assistant coaches – Coach Cunningham and Coach Abraham – were driving one of the vans back to campus. Chris Hess, Ryan Olmo, Mike Corin, Jesse Lee and I were in that van. I remember getting to our van and just making sure we had everybody. Meanwhile, Coach Cerrato and Coach Foster's vans were gone. It was like a Fast & Furious scene – they just booked it onto the highway and were outta there!
We tried catching up to them, and were doing our best in the van that we had, but then we hit the inevitable Connecticut highway construction, which put us back even further. Coach Cunningham was driving the van and, once we passed the construction and tried getting back up to a normal to speed, the van started to make noises. We also smelled a burning smell, which we all we knew was it was coming from the van.
The next thing I know, the van is smoking and won't go any faster than 35 mph, so we pull into the nearest rest stop. Coach Cunningham, who was basically our IT guy who did everything, thought he knew what it was and could fix it. Great. So the five of us players go into the rest stop and get dinner while he "fixed" the van.
But then when we tried leaving, the smoke got even worse and we could even get above 15 mph on the highway. So pretty much we are stuck in Connecticut, at a rest stop, with a broken down van… after losing on a walk-off, watching our ferry cruise off without us and then getting stuck in construction traffic.
And someone has to call Coach Foster – who, by the way, was not happy about anything that happened that day. Nobody wanted to make the call asking him to turn around and come pick us up. We let some time pass, just looking at one another like, "So, who's going to call him?"
Eventually, Coach Cunningham called… and by the time he did, Coach Foster's van was only 20 minutes from campus. Regardless, they had to turn around and come all the way back to Connecticut to get us – which, at this point, was a 45-minute away from where they were.
So, by now it's like 10:30 at night, and finally we get picked up by Coach Foster's van. We're all in disbelief at everything that has happened, but Coach Foster is beyond mad to say the least.
I remember literally laying on top of guys – because remember, Coach Foster's van is already full with players – with bags piled on top of me, and the heat absolutely blasting in the van with no music. People think traveling is glamourous. Let me tell you – it is not.
Anyway, the day finally ended when we reached campus around midnight. For the guys that were in that van, that memory is one that will last forever! And if Coach Cunningham and Coach Abraham read this – I want them to know that that remains one of the funniest road trips I've experienced.
I still remember how I felt on August 30th, 2012 when I moved away from home, and I will remember the emotion and memories of each day in college over the past five years. This ride isn't over though; we are hungry for that second A-10 title, another ring, and another regional bid.
Thanks for tuning in this week. Please help support us in our pursuit for another championship as we enter our final week of the regular season and head to St. Louis next Monday for the conference tournament!
Until next time… GO RHODY!
- Ben Wessel
Wessel's Words: A Bittersweet Senior Day
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