This week in Baseball
17 July 2003
HARWICH- The colleges nearby have coeds, live music and all night parties, but for pitchers Duke Acors of Virginia Military Institute and Shannon Sprouse of The Citadel, curfew is at midnight.
For these two Harwich Mariners, college life is nothing like their Cape Cod Baseball League brethren. They both attend military school colleges. In addition to course loads and homework, they make sacrifices unfathomable to those of us who see college as four years of freedom. The main difference between a military and a "civilian" school is freshman year. While most college athletes have to deal with the huge step in commitment to their sport, Acors and Sprouse also had to endure a year of "institutionalized hazing" at the hands of the upperclassmen.
This regiment of physical and mental suffering is the staple in building the character and discipline needed to succeed in the army, and Acors and Sprouse were cut no slack because they were student-athletes. Both credit a part of their success at the college level to hardships they faced their first year. "As a pitcher you have to be calm," Acors said. "Getting angry only makes the pushups and mind games harder. Sprouse noted, "It teaches you to be mentally tough, patient, and mature."
Acors just finished his sophomore year at VMI, in Lexington, Virginia, and enjoyed huge success on the team and personal levels. The Keydets won the Southern Conference while setting a school record for wins. Acors personally finished with a 6-5 record, and held opponents to a paltry .230 batting average. With the number one pitcher graduating, Acors figures to anchor the staff next season as its ace. He is also a Business/Economics major.
Similarly, Sprouse also finished his sophomore year in the Southern Conference. His Bulldogs lost to Acors' Keydets in the Southern Conference Tournament final, 2-1. The year however was a success for Sprouse, as he was named the team's closer after a strong fall season. He finished with a winning record of 5-4, with a team-leading seven saves. The business major also stuck out 30 batters in 31 innings. Neither chose their final destination because of the military aspect. Sprouse had planned on attending the University of South Carolina, but decided instead at the last minute to go to the Citadel. He said the beautiful location in Charleston, and the program's reputation were his deciding factors.
Acors credits his former coach Tom Slater, now an assistant at Florida, with luring him to VMI. He chose the Keydets over James Madison, Virginia Commonwealth, and William and Mary. While both young men participate in the required ROTC training, neither plans on joining the military after college. Since the Citadel and VMI rank at the top of everyone's "Alumni Loyalty" lists, both figure to have jobs lined up. Sprouse notes that the alumni too had their time as a freshman, and know that the toughness and desire it takes to survive are also needed to be a good employee. Keeping this in mind though, both do admit to missing some of the pleasures their Mariner teammates speak of in the dugout.
Neither, though, seem to regret a thing about their decisions, despite the sacrifices. They understand that they have developed the characteristics to succeed both on the diamond and off.
For those, a curfew seems a small price to pay.
- Brian Higgins <firstname.lastname@example.org>