Steven Reinhold: The Little Things
"You're five foot nothin', a hundred and nothin', and you hung in with the best college football team in the land for two years, and you were also going to walk out of here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this lifetime you don't have to prove nothing to nobody except yourself, and after what you've gone through, if you haven't done that by now, it ain't gonna' never happen, now go on back."
- Charles S. Dutton as Fortune in Rudy (1993)
Nothing is more popular, especially in sports, than the underdog. American sports fans are enamored by any rise from the unexpected. Undersized in body, the underdog is never the best. He's always hanging on no matter what; clawing and kicking frantically enough to stir up any audience. In the end, the underdog, whether on top or bottom, usually brings a tear to the eye – a disbelief that one person could display such unrelenting motivation and aesthetically pay attention to the little details.
Gamecock Nation has their Rudy, and he's on the way out in the form of starting outfielder Steven Reinhold. The 5'7" 175 pound outfielder has brought the fans to their feet on several different occasions this season. Maybe it was the crash into the Florida outfield wall or the night he matched his season total of hits in one game with four.
Regardless of size or career numbers, the fans love him for all that he stands for. Not only is Steven a ball player, he's also a gifted student and a public speaker to high school kids. Reinhold has made the Dean's List, scored a 1440 on the SAT and had a High School GPA of 4.2. That is not a typo, by the way. Steven actually finished high school getting all the extra credit questions right too.
Small in stature and extremely smart, most probably walk by him every day on campus and have no idea he's the one who smashed into the outfield wall in Florida. He's the one who wants to win so badly, he'd run full steam ahead into the wall only to get a concussion. There are numerous hustle plays to choose from, he's just glad he did it here – at South Carolina.
Steven's mother, Janet Reinhold, says, "It was a big thrill for Steven to get calls from South Carolina. I think the whole experience there has helped him as a man."
Obviously fond of him, she's not the only one cheering him on from Waynesville, NC, "We have people approaching us all the time telling us how proud of Steven they are. He's a team guy who keeps everything in perspective all the time."
He dedicates so much time to details, it's no wonder he's successful. Maybe it's ironic that the littlest detail is so important to the littlest guy. He appreciates the little things because they are the building blocks for big things.
So how does a young man, so much smaller than his teammates and opponents, develop a talent so rare? For one, it's in his genes. Steven's great grandfather once played with Satchel Paige for a short time in his brief career. Sooner or later the baseball player attached to his DNA would have to let loose. Give in it did.
"In early middle school he really started to show that anything was possible if he worked at it," says Mom.
After passing up on being drafted out of Tuscola High School in the 13th round by the Cleveland Indians, his decision to attend South Carolina seemed questionable at best. After three seasons, Reinhold had a measly 39 at-bats, five hits, one home run and three runs batted in. With a career batting average in college of .128, he must have wondered why he chose Columbia over the Indians farm system.
For some, the belief that a higher power is at work, justifies any means. Maybe it was supposed to be this way. Maybe there is something to be learned from this. Whatever the reason, Steven's final year at Carolina has been memorable.
"It's kinda' like everything is starting to come together a little bit. All the hard work is starting to payoff. It means a lot to me to go in. I'm thrilled," said Reinhold.
Thrilled may be an understatement when comparing Steven's first three seasons to his fourth. Keeping in mind the aforementioned numbers, 2007 has brought him well earned starter status, a .294 average, 18 runs, 15 hits, and three steals in three attempts.
Reinhold is special in his approach to the game as well. The way he views the game is so important to who he is. Most people, like his mother, pick out their personal favorite moments by level of glory associated with the act. This is normal for roughly 99% of the population.
His parents come to almost every game. They've been to Omaha, and they plan on going again. Ms. Reinhold picks Steven's four hit game against Alabama earlier this season as her most enjoyable moment.
Steven, on the other hand, shows why he's successful and so much more about his personality when faced with the same question, "That (four hit game) was a highlight. It was probably the best single game I've ever had. If I had to pick ONE single highlight though, it would probably be against ECU my freshman year in the super regional. I got in and stole a base and scored a run in the late innings. It kinda' helped us go out to Omaha."
How many athletes on Steven's level would pick the play where he manufactured an important run? Usually it's the home run walk-off style or a great defensive play, it's never the run manufactured that gets the top billing.
Maybe it's his nature or maybe it's a comfort level as he provided so many highlights before Carolina. One year, in an AAU tournament, Steven hit a walk off grand slam to win the title. In his senior year, he hit .520 and stole 26 bases. Somewhere in there, Carolina's version of Rudy realized there is so much more to accomplish than the highlight reel material.
Or maybe, Reinhold views it like Daniel E. 'Rudy' Ruettiger who said, "Who cares how much effort I put in, if it doesn't produce any results?"
Mr. Reinhold, mission accomplished. Thanks for the memories and thanks for that steal against ECU in the Super Regional. After all, it's the little things, right?
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