Bulldog Bench Mob Is a Hit With Squad

OMAHA -- Discussing his clutch plate performance in Monday's victory over Indiana, DH Trey Porter cited an unlikely source of inspiration for how he stayed even-keel during those lengthy stretches he didn't get to hit. "I'll give 100% of the credit to the Bench Mob. I know you know all about them."

The press corps covering Mississippi State did. Outsiders had to wonder what on earth Porter meant, about a ‘mob' on the bench? They only need speak to one of the instigators of this Bulldog bedlam, relief pitcher Ross Mitchell, who at Charlottesville showed the appropriately-titled cap after State's success.

"We have a thing we call Bench Mob, it's something we started," said Mitchell. By ‘we' he meant himself, Evan (no relation) Mitchell, and Jacob Lindgren, all pitchers. "We're the leaders I guess you would say. We come up with this stuff."

In-game stuff like impromptu chants some innings, ‘get to know this guy' sessions in others…and sometimes in the sixth they just sit silent and stone-faced. "We do all kinds of different stuff."

Understand the mob is mostly pitchers and backups and subbed-out Dogs not involved with, you know, the actual game on the field at that moment. And while in particularly intense points of a close games they will be lined-up along the dugout fence cheering and such, they are just as likely to have a ‘rally parade' in the dugout with lucky caps and gear hastily procured from the locker room.

Such shenanigans baffled Dudy Noble Field folk at first; now most fans enjoy camera shots of what the bench mob and troops are trying during games. Even the hard-core traditionalists have accepted it all, though at times broadcasters unfamiliar with the fun mistake this stuff for madness instead of method. There really is a script, says Mitchell, and an objective.

"We're just trying to pump the starters up, just be a teammate, and they're trying to be focused. You would think the coaches would be like y'all need to cut it out, but they are 100% encouraging us. I know before every game Coach (Nick) Mingione will give us something to celebrate on Bench Mob."

Coach John Cohen would also seem an unlikely admirer of these antics. Yet this former Diamond Dog, remembered well for his teeth-grinding intensity during games as a player, actually approves. "It's harmless," Cohen says. "But it's fun for them. When you're around a group as much as these kids are together you have to create those moments. Rain delays and practice and meetings, you have to allow that."

Cohen has not said, however, if he has seen the infamous Bench Mob Video. Before the super regional trip Mitchell promised one was in the making, and the day before leaving for Omaha it was shot. Participants wrote their own raps and suggested scenes. Elder Dogs might dismiss it as college-kid humor, but then that is exactly the point.

Nor does it matter if such things would have met Ron Polk's approval either…though it also seems safe to say the old State skipper would never have seen it anyway. Regardless, "Coach Polk let us have fun," Cohen says of his own playing days along with such outsized characters as Pete Young, Richie Grayum, Tracy Echols, Scott and David the Mitchell non-brothers, and many more. "I remember, we just didn't call it a bench mob!"

"So I think it's great. It's nice to see our kids have fun with the game, because that is what it is supposed to be about."

The fun does stay within bounds, though, according to R.Mitchell. "We take the bench serious, we feel we have a part in the game and are a part in the success."

Mitchell's ringmaster role does raise one question though. He's had his mob-ing time cut into heavily over recent weeks by increased long-relief work, hasn't he? "Yeah, that's why I get so mad when I have to go to the bullpen early. I'm saying man, I'm missing the Free-Style Three!"

HAVING A BALL: One need not be a member of the official bench mob to have some fun during games. Or even in the dugout for that matter. Not at the College World Series.

An unofficial tradition that made the transition from now-razed Rosenblatt Stadium to Ameritrade Park is fans bouncing beachballs around the bleachers between innings. At least it is supposed to be between frames; there have been frequent pauses in play already for stadium staff to retrieve a ball, or two, or three which ended up on the warning track.

Coincidentally the grounds staff are stationed in the outfield bullpens…thus their booty can be confiscated by, say, a reliever or catcher in the pen for warmups. This proved true Monday evening as at least three beachballs ended up in Bulldog hands.

Literally. During the top of both the seventh and eighth innings, three Mississippi State players were seen bumping a ball up and down while teammates were batting. Maybe this instant superstition didn't pay off immediately, but in the eighth the offense punched out the three runs which turned a deficit into victory.

Jonathan Holder was in the pen at the time, and reported that there was no call from intense staff or teammates to knock it off.

"I mean the coaches let us run our own show. And if the beach balls are working they're not going to let us put them up! And they were definitely working." For that matter, Holder reported another good-luck action was taking place.

"(Will) Cox had some grass in his hand that he couldn't let go of. I guess he got it in the bullpen, when I got down there he already had it. So there was some weird stuff going on down there."

No, it's only weird when it doesn't work.

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