Muff Divers looking forward to getting uniforms dirty in 2010

By Collegian Sports Staff

The 2010 Men’s Intramural Softball season commences today, and the intramural fields will soon be home to slick fielding plays, big swings of the bat, and web-gem catches in the outfield. Yet, we cannot know where we are going unless we know where we came from, and the 2009 Intramural Softball season was all about the Muff Divers. Cast off as losers in the Fall 2008 tournament and their short-lived playoff run in the Spring 2008, the Muff Divers (then the Posadamizers) met following their last inning defeat and made a pact: to go undefeated and win the championship in the spring. Some worked tirelessly, both in the gym and on the diamond, to improve all facets of their game.

They made sacrifices and gave up many of their lifelong college dreams and goals to dedicate themselves to a common goal. They did not let the rankings go to their heads, although the figures were very impressive. As one of the most competitive seasons began, teams looked as loaded as ever.

The Muff Divers were ranked preseason number one at UMass and number 16 in the New England Collegiate Intramural Softball Association, and they did not let the rankings down. How they got there, though, is a story unto itself.

Bringing the team together was a challenge.

The loss took a heavy toll on the players, and many went their separate ways after making the pact. Catcher Jason Montes, who was awarded the Bronze Bomber award for his crushing blows at bat, came back from a semester in California and doubling as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s stuntman to compete.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I left, but when I got the phone call that we were going to assemble the team for another championship run, there was no way that I could turn it down.”

Right fielder Chris Chistolini, who was training for the Beer Olympics and Oktoberfest, decided to exchange the brews for the balls. First baseman Jim Dailey, who was deep in the mountains of Jamaica on a quest to find his inner Zen, decided he belonged on the sod of the Intramural Fields and not on a beach.

Third baseman Adam Rubin had spent some time working on a Sport Science project determining what the difference between being and not being an accountant has on his bat speed and glove work. Short fielder Josh Levine challenged Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt to a race around the bases and ruptured his Achilles in the process, putting his eligibility for the 2010 season in jeopardy.

Despite all of the off-field distractions, the team was able to buckle down and focus on the season. Redemption was the theme they carried throughout the season, and they played with the fire of a spurned woman.

In the short four-game season, there is little room for error. They had been there before, however, only two seasons ago. Ineligible players forced the team to forfeit two games with only two remaining, and they needed to win out in order to make the playoffs.

They did, but ultimately the stress and pressure was too much and they collapsed in the Sweet 16. In 2009, there were no excuses. They pummeled the first two teams in their season-opening doubleheader to lock up a playoff spot, and continued their slaughter of the Arctic Division, carrying the momentum into the playoffs. After squeaking out a win in the semifinal game by coming back and winning in the final inning, the team looked poised to have another collapse similar to the 2008 Fall Tournament.

But captain Eric Frost would not let that happen.

“We came too close (in the tournament), we couldn’t let this one get away,” He said.

Chistolini rallied the troops, knowing that he would never get this chance again.

“This was my last shot. I stayed an extra semester because I wanted the opportunity to play for a championship. I wanted it more than I wanted anything in my entire life,” Chistolini mused.

The Muff Divers went on to win, 3-2, and with the victory, destiny had been fulfilled. Third baseman Adam Rubin was overcome with emotion and broke down into tears in his post-game interview. The prophecy had been fulfilled, but one question still remained: Would they play the next year with the same fire that brought them the championship?

Since the victory, the team has gone corporate. Players have become the spokesmen for corporations from Viagra (Chistolini) to Hood Skim Milk (Dailey). The players aren’t the only ones that have gone corporate; the team has as well. The sponsorship of the Muff Divers by Amherst Creperie (Opening Soon in Downtown Amherst) and the Facebook Fan page are two examples of a team which has taken their popularity and ran with it. Yet, one individual has gone in the opposite direction. Left fielder Andy Weinstein has dedicated himself to non-profit organizations, founding a grassroots softball program called “The Little Muffers,” which is sure to ensure that the legacy of the Muff Divers will never die.

This season looks to be the most challenging for the Muff Divers. The Championship hangover has plagued many teams in the past, but the team will tell you that it will never happen to them.

“We are too hungry. We got an appetizer last year, this year we are ready for the entrée,” says shortstop Dan Jette, who is back and healthy after having two successful knee replacement procedures. Jette had been previously playing on two artificial ACL’s, but since he became the spokesperson for University Health Services in their fight against mid-day naps, he was able to afford the expensive procedure. The Muff Divers have lost Chistolini but have added in his place the highly touted prospect Mark DiFillipo, who was in the Muff Divers AAA team for the past two seasons and is ready to play.

“I feel great,” says DiFillipo, who has had multiple plasma injections in his spine in an effort to wrangle two floating discs. “The treatment is going well and I am excited to play.”

DiFillipo will fill the gap in right field, but the team has announced it will play the first third inning with right field unoccupied in memory of Chistolini, the heart of the team. The rest of the lineup will remain the same, only with Adam Rubin leading off followed by the big bat of Andy Weinstein. The offense will be potent and the defense will be stifling, and that does not bode well for the rest of the intramural hopefuls who will take the field in hopes of knocking off Goliath.

Their only hope will be that the Muff Divers will be lacking in the mental aspect of the game, but Eric Frost quickly retorted that, “We are ready to mash. Good luck.”

They are going to need it.

You can watch the Muff Divers play every Thursday at 7 p.m. on the fields next to the Mullins Center. Come early, as there are only standing room seats left on Ticketmaster.

Bardia Razzaghi can be reached at [email protected].

Editor’s Note: April Fools.