For the seemingly infinite amount of statistical analysis that goes into professional baseball, it appears as though the unmeasurables are what often make the biggest difference. After Tulsa lost 5 of their first 6 games to open the season on the road, the players knew something needed to change.
And it came in the form of a tiger doll, roughly four feet in length, which now rests upon the team's water coolers in the dugout. Tulsa pitchers Chad Bettis and Joe Gardner found "Lonnie" at a truck stop in Texas during the six-game road trip.
"We woke up at 4:30 in the morning and we wanted to get some snacks when we stopped at a truck stop in Texas," Bettis explained. "And we were about to check out and we see Lonnie propped up on this huge platform and we were like, 'Oh, we have to get that.'"
And according to Joe Gardner, the stuffed tiger has been accepted as part of the team.
"Lonnie will be making road trips," assured Gardner. "He has his own seat and his own row. So we may have to kick one of the new guys out."
Gardner is kidding about that last part -- we think. Either way, first year manager Kevin Riggs has seen this kind of thing before. In Riggs' experience, "distractions" of this nature are a good thing to a ball club.
"They don't focus so much on the end result," said Riggs. "They'll just kind of laugh about some things and it kind of controls their emotions a little bit. So I'm good with all of it."
While we'll never truly know how much Lonnie's presence affected this team's success, as of Wednesday, April 17, the Drillers are 5-1 with the tiger in the dugout.
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