OSU softball: The bat flips? The attitude? Samatha Show brings it, and the Cowgirls are better for it
The video opens with Samantha Show and a couple of teams watching a softball game in the coach’s office.
After a moment, she stands, flips the remote control over her shoulder, turns and walks out.
“Yeah, everybody’s talking about Sam and the bat flips,” Show’s teammate Elise LeBeouf says to the camera, “but we don’t even notice it any more. It’s like an everyday thing.”
The video then shows Show finishing a point in a game of ping-pong by flipping the paddle into the air — “No class,” a teammate deadpans — and leaving a room after flipping a water bottle that sticks the landing.
“My personal advice,” LeBeouf concludes, “just don’t stand too close.”
Done in the style of ESPN’S fun “This is SportsCenter” ads, the video is the brainchild of Oklahoma State’s talented PR guy John Langham. It is witty and cheeky and a wee bit irreverent. Show, after all, has become a lightning rod in the college softball world for punctuating some of her big hits with big bat flips.
But the truth is, Sam Show is exactly what these Cowgirls need.
On the day OSU starts NCAA Super Regional play against the defending national champ, there are many reasons the Cowgirls are a real threat to upset Florida State and get to the Women’s College World Series. They have great individual talent, freshmen who are fearless and upperclassmen who are clutch. They have superb hitting and pitching and fielding and coaching, too.
But they also have an edge. It’s a swagger reminiscent of the OSU baseball teams of yesteryear under Gary Ward.
It’s because of Show.
“We needed somebody that could walk out front and say, ‘We’re about to go to war, and you’ve got to get through me first,’” Cowgirl coach Kenny Gajewski said. “We just needed some toughness here.”
When he heard she was transferring from Texas A&M last summer, he was immediately interested. He needed an arm; she is a great one. He wanted a pitcher who could hit; she definitely can. And he loved her fiery demeanor.
He didn't want her in spite of that nastiness but rather because of it.
Gajewski knew there were risks. Players like Show aren’t afraid to say what’s on their mind. Aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers either. And in the world of women’s team sports, that can sometimes disrupt chemistry and split locker rooms.
Gajewski wasn't deterred.
“I only want you to come here if this is how you’re gonna play,” he told Show. “I don’t need you to tiptoe through here. I need you to be Sam Show from Day 1.
“And I will help you if you’ll help me.”
He coached Show as much in being a better teammate as he did in being a better player. He talked to Show, for example, about what to do if she said something that came out badly. Apologize, then admit that saying things the right way isn’t a strength.
Gajewski was also upfront with his returning players about Show. She was extremely talented, he told them, but she might say and do things that rubbed them the wrong way. Give her a chance, and the marriage could be magical.
He saw it blossom the second weekend of March.
That’s when OSU went to Oregon for an early-season test, and during the second game of what would be a three-game Cowgirl sweep, Show crushed a high, inside pitch over the left-field wall. As it soared toward the stratosphere, she turned, looked at the Cowgirl dugout and flipped her bat almost as high as her homer.
It became the flip heard round the world.
The video made the rounds on social media, even prompting Twitter to proclaim that Show set “Twitter ablaze.” The flip was watched well over a million times.
Not everyone loved it. The flip was called rude, disrespectful, even classless.
Gajewski told Show, in no uncertain terms, not to reply to any of it.
“If I see you reply to one thing,” the coach said, “I’m gonna suspend you. Do not reply. Let it run its course.”
Show complied, and as much as Gajewski loved that, he was really ecstatic about the way her teammates responded. They took up for her. Gajewski hadn’t prompted them. They had simply followed their hearts.
It gave him goosebumps then. Still does.
The coach says his star is revered in their dugout.
So when Langham came up with the idea for the spoof bat-flip video — complete with a sassy BatFlipU hashtag — Gajewski didn’t hesitate. That first flip was a defining moment in the growth of these Cowgirls.
Defining for Show, too.
She has been steady and spectacular all season, and last weekend during regionals, she played as well as she ever has in a Cowgirl uniform. In three wins, she hit .400, drove in four runs and threw two complete games, scattering eight hits in those starts and allowing only one earned run in each.
Of course, she had one bat flip, too.
“You’re playing your best when you’re having fun and when you’re with your friends,” Show said. “You’re just a little kid out there. That was my big thing this year — just go out and have fun.
“Keeping this team loose, keeping things fun is how we’re going to go far.”
Samantha Show may well be smiling and having fun, but don’t let that fool you. She still has all the grittiness and nastiness of a street fighter. She still has that edge.
And that's an edge for the Cowgirls, no matter the opponent.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.
NCAA SUPER REGIONAL
No. 13 Oklahoma State at No. 4 Florida State
Where: JoAnne Graf Field; Tallahasse, Florida
Radio: KGFY 105.5 FM
Game 1: 6 p.m. Thursday (ESPN)
Game 2: 2 p.m. Friday (ESPN2)
Game 3: 11 a.m. Saturday (ESPN, if necessary)