Daily Egyptian

Saluki softball drumming along this season

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

With two softballs in hand and an overturned bucket, Saluki softball has been marching to the beat of its own drum this season.

Chants and yells are a regular form of team camaraderie in softball, but at Charlotte West Stadium, SIU fans can hear senior utility player Caylee Cook and other players smacking two softballs on a bucket to cheer on their teammates.

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Cook said this tradition started nearly three years ago, during a series at Bradley.

“[Coach] Kerri [Blaylock] wanted to have more energy,” she said. “We were just being kind of annoying on purpose and it just stuck.”

Although Cook has been the drum master for the majority of the last three seasons, the rally cry was not entirely her idea.

She said fellow senior utility player Taylor Harris got the movement started with a little inspiration from the opponents.

“[The Braves] were doing it in their dugout,” Cook said. “So we were just copying them a little bit.”

Loud drumming and rallying calls is a relatively new operation in college sports, said assistant coach Jen Sewell.

She said she has noticed a recent increase of collegiate athletes becoming a second squad of cheerleaders when they’re not in the game.

This season Monmouth University gained national recognition for its men’s basketball team and its bench’s creative celebrations.

Since the Salukis began drumming in 2014, Cook and her teammates have personalized the ritual.

“[Harris] started banging on the top of their dugout, then it migrated to buckets, then drumsticks and everything,” Cook said. “We finally came up with some different beats and now we have our own album basically.”

The Vinita, Okla., native spent a lot of her first three seasons on the bench, so she wanted to help the team and take the drumming responsibilities into her own hands.

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Cook is only on the field during her at-bats, and Sewell said Cook has the perfect personality to take on the role.

“She has to play light, she’s one of those players you can tell when she’s pressing,” Sewell said. “It’s her way of getting into the game. You have to create your own energy coming off the bench, so why not be in the game otherwise?”

At the Missouri Valley Conference opener against Loyola on March 19, Cook said there was one chant from the opposition that got to the team.

“They did ‘bats-and-hitties,'” she said. “We were all cracking up because we thought they were saying something else. [Sophomore second baseman Savannah] Fisher wants us to do it, but I don’t think I could do it without laughing.”

For those confused, the chant is a reference to a NSFW song by DJ Assault with a similar name.

Cook said opponents’ chants are never more intimidating than theirs, just better choreographed.

“We do the same one at the beginning of every game,” she said. “Ours sounds horrible because people can’t go high or they go too low and everyone’s off-beat. We have a bunch of farmers, they can’t keep a beat.”

Despite its fun nature, the drumming can get the team into some hot water.

Although it’s a generally accepted practice by teams and officials, the NCAA has taken strides to limit the drumming and chanting. Rules 5.11 and 13.6.2 of the NCAA softball rule book prohibit artificial noisemakers.

Blaylock said teams can ask the umpire to stop opposing teams from creating too much noise in the dugout.

While in Florida at the USF Under Armour Invitational, the team was asked to stop its drumming every game, Cook said. In the MVC, it’s a different situation.

“During conference they don’t really shut it down as much,” she said. “Most teams in our conference do it, so it’s not a big deal.”

When Cook is at the plate, Harris or senior shortstop Kelsey Gonzalez takes over the drumming duties, meaning there will be openings for the position next season.

Cook said some training will be needed to replace her, but she has an idea of who can lead it next year.

“They all try it but they’re all horrible, so I don’t know who’s going to be in charge,” she said. “I feel bad for them when all three of us leave because we’re the three to do it all the time. Merri Anne [Patterson] tries her hardest, but I think someone will be able to do it, it’ll just be pretty off-beat.”

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307.

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