During the preseason, Travis White and a couple of his Tivy baseball teammates hatched the perfect plan to attain international fame. They were going to be music’s next great rock band.
The idea came in motion the night after the Antlers’ second practice, when White was playing the video game “Rock Band.” He jokingly texted a video of him rocking to the Jet’s “Are you Gonna Be My Girl” to Brady Delgado and Cole Mixon. After watching the clip, both teammates replied, “We should actually make a band.”
So, that’s exactly what they did.
They decided to give the band a rather straightforward name: Boy Band. White was Boy Band’s lead guitarist and primary song writer; Mixon became the lead singer; Delgado decided to be Boy Band’s drummer and Walker Grimes was the bassist. Together, they intended on capturing the hearts of adoring fans across the globe.
There was just one flaw to this otherwise infallible plan: None of Boy Band’s members can actually play a musical instrument, or even carry a tune. And the majority of their live concerts have only taken place during the bus rides returning from games.
Then again, Boy Band’s main purpose isn’t really to make music, but rather to boost team morale throughout the season. In that regard, it’s been a rousing success, as the quasi-imaginary band continues to remain popular among the Tivy baseball team. Other teammates began participating in the season-long joke. Junior Colten Drake is Boy Band’s backup drummer, just in case Delgado is unable to perform during the bus concerts. Senior Braden Jaeger has become the band’s super fan, while junior shortstop Cole Miears remains Boy Band’s most scathing critic, chiding the band’s poor work ethic in a statement provided to the Kerrville Daily Times. Considering none of the band members have even bothered learning to play a musical instrument, he may have a point.
But in a weird way, the creation of “Boy Band” helps explain the Antlers’ success on the diamond this season, why they were able to advance to the Area Round where they will begin a three-game series against Alamo Heights tonight in Jourdanton. Unlike the past few Tivy seasons, this current one has contained adversity; moments when the Antlers (25-10) might have been tempted to give up. Boy Band’s raucous concerts during bus rides always made teammates laugh, helping them forget about previous poor performances. Writing lyrics for the band kept spirits high during losing streaks.
Boy Band, then, didn’t just help the Antlers navigate through turbulent times, but also reminded them why they fell in love with baseball in the first baseball.
“It definitely helps,” White said. “It just brings you back to the reason why you are out here in the first place, why you started playing baseball as a first grader or kindergartener. It’s because your friends played it and you want to be with your friends. … You are out here because you want to have fun and have shenanigans with your friends.”
Pulling shenanigans isn’t just reserved for Tivy players, however. Baseball has always had the reputation for possessing some of sports’ most colorful personalities (David Ortiz, Noah Syndergaard and Joe Maddon are a few who come to mind). Tivy coach Chris Russ has been around the game his whole life, pitching at Texas A&M before enjoying a stint in the minor leagues. Every single one of his former teams had their fair share of goof balls.
“That’s the way baseball is,” Russ said. “Every level that I have played in, there was a lot of joking around, more so than other sport I would have to guess. If you google professional sports and pranks, I bet over half the results would be professional baseball.”
And for good reason. After all, baseball is intrinsically a game of failure; the sport’s best hitters are only successful about 30 percent of the time. Players can initiate strong contact with the ball, only to witness the wind push the ball into an outfielder’s gloves. They can work hard for hours every day and go weeks without seeing any tangible results. It can be demoralizing.
They have to learn how to laugh, or the sport will break them down.
“In football, you have to be serious because you are trying to go out and kill somebody,” White said. “In baseball, if you are serious and go 0-for-3, you are going to be pretty sad. And it’s going to snowball to the next game.”
“You have to live and let die,” added Delgado, referencing one of Wings’ most famous songs.
It was a lesson the Antlers learned well this season, which has been a sort of rebuilding year. They lost last year’s top three hitters (Lance Ford, Milan Walla and Hunter Grimes), and several of 2018’s role players had to transition to leadership roles. Moreover, the bottom of Tivy’s lineup was filled with players making their varsity debut.
Naturally, there were some low points. The Antlers didn’t win the district title for the first time since 2015, losing two one-run games to arch-rival Boerne Champion. They also experienced a three-game losing streak.
But they never stopped laughing, and that helped. Russ also received an assist from his brother, Ryan Russ, who texted him a link to an article extolling the virtues of whiffle ball. After reading the article, Russ decided to incorporate whiffle ball into Tivy’s practice routine.
“It’s a great way to learn the game,” Russ said. “You are out there having fun and you learn as you go playing whiffle ball — what you aren’t supposed to do and what you can do. When those guys play (whiffle ball), it takes them back to their little league days. Everyone can hit the whiffle ball out the park. It’s a fun way to pass the time. If we are struggling, pressing, or guys are really stressed out, it’s a good way to go relieve some of that stress.
So far, it’s worked. The Antlers played a game of whiffle during their three-game losing streak. They played another game last Friday after their 3-1 loss to Austin LBJ in Game 1 during the bi-district round. On Saturday, they won a double-header to clinch the series.
Boy Band delivered another concert on the bus ride after the double-header. Delgado believes it was the best one yet. It was so good that Jaeger even performed a crowd dive. Or, at least he tried.
“He just fell on the seats,” Delgado said dryly. “He’s a pretty hefty guy.
Jaeger hopes to have another reason to crowd dive, and Tivy’s Boy Band hopes to give another concert after the Antlers’ series against Heights.
“It’s a lot of fun to be on the bus; I’m not going to lie,” Russ said. “I want our guys to relax, play well and forget about the bad. It’s nice to win some games and get on the bus and have fun.”