Long Hair, a Scraggly Beard and a Lucky Dugout: UVA Baseball Reveals Its Superstitions

June 12, 2024 By Andrew Ramspacher, fpa5up@virginia.edu Andrew Ramspacher, fpa5up@virginia.edu

Among what Drew Dickinson recalls from his first day on the job as the University of Virginia baseball team’s new pitching coach was a discussion of “bad juju” in a certain area of Disharoon Park. 

It was the fall of 2019, and the Cavalier program was coming off, by its standards, consecutive down seasons. After making the NCAA Tournament each year from 2004 through 2017 – and winning the national championship in 2015 – UVA missed the “Big Dance” two years in row. 

Dickinson, freshly hired from the University of Illinois, remembers being on the field when head coach Brian O’Connor was talking with another staff member about the possibility of switching dugouts. 

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Under O’Connor, then approaching his 17th season in Charlottesville, the Wahoos had always operated on gamedays out of the third-base dugout. That changed, though, in 2018 with a stadium renovation that moved the home bullpen from just outside the third-base line to beyond the right field wall. It made sense then to have the home dugout nearby on the first-base side. 

The problem was, it didn’t lead to enough wins. 

“And (O’Connor) was talking about moving back because it’s bad juju over there,” Dickson said. 

A few months later, when UVA opened its abbreviated 2020 season, the Hoos returned to the third-base side. They’ve remained there since and, on Friday, they’ll play in the College World Series for the third time in four years. 

 “You try to change something, and you realize that’s not who this program is or that’s not part of what we do,” UVA veteran assistant coach Matt Kirby said. “And we said, ‘OK, let’s get back to our ground roots,’ and that’s our ground roots – that third-base dugout.” 

From “rally caps” to spark a comeback in the late innings, to refusing to wash a hat or uniform during a win streak to, yes, feeling the vibes of a lucky dugout, baseball players and coaches have long been known as a superstitious lot. 

Ahead of Virginia’s College World Series opener against the University of North Carolina, we gathered a sampling of the Wahoos’ most quirky rituals. 

Anthony Stephan, junior outfielder/designated hitter 

“Depending on if we win or lose, it’s the entrance I walk into (Disharoon Park). So, if we keep winning, I’ll go in the pitching facility entrance by using a code. And if we lose, I’ll come in by using my key card.”

Bobby Whalen, senior center fielder 

“I haven’t cut my hair since Christmas break. You can’t cut your hair when you’re winning. So that’s definitely a superstition.

“I also have this necklace that my mom gave to me on opening day this season. ‘Calm confidence’ is the meaning of the necklace. I wore it game one and we won, and I haven’t taken it off since.”

A collection of the superstitious members of UVA’s baseball team. Top row, from left to right, Anthony Stephan, Bobby Whalen and Matt Augustin. Bottom row, from left to right, Casey Saucke, Ethan Anderson and Drew Dickinson.
A collection of the superstitious members of UVA’s baseball team. Top row, from left to right, Anthony Stephan, Bobby Whalen and Matt Augustin. Bottom row, from left to right, Casey Saucke, Ethan Anderson and Drew Dickinson. (Photos by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications and UVA Athletics)

Matt Augustin, freshman pitcher 

“I have gone to Chick-fil-A before every single game this year, have gotten the same thing over and over again. It’s a No. 1 (meal) – no pickles, medium fry and then a Coke. 

“And then my pregame playlist has 22 songs on it, which is my lucky number. I just listen to it before every single game.”

Casey Saucke, junior right fielder 

“I’m pretty superstitious about the beard. It’s hard not to be. I’ve had it all year, so I got to keep it going, especially now that we’re winning.

“I eat the same Wegmans protein bar, it’s called ‘Pure Protein.’ I eat the same one before every game. And I always put my left cleat on before my right cleat.”

Ethan Anderson, junior catcher/designated hitter

“The first time I shaved my mustache in place was the Virginia Tech series (May 16-18) and I had a good weekend. We swept the weekend, and I kept it through the ACC Tournament. 

“So now it’s to the point where you can’t shave your facial hair in the playoffs, you can’t get a haircut … you know, those baseball superstitions. 

“I’ve just kept on shaving everything else, waxing the tips (of the mustache) and trying to get it to curl.”

Drew Dickinson, pitching coach 

“We have our pitching charts. So, we had a pencil break maybe three weeks ago and Oak (O’Connor) said, ‘I don’t have anymore.’ So, we got some from (associate head coach Kevin McMullan). Mac has these certain kinds of pencils. 

“And we started pitching well, so we’re like, ‘All right, we got to keep this pencil.’ So, we kept that same pencil for the charts, and it ran out the other day. And we said, ‘Oh no, we’re not changing pencils. Put more lead in it.’

“So, we’ve kept the same pencil and, hey, that pencil is going to stay here for the time being.”