How long?? @WVBlackBears Ryan Haug and Batavia Muckdog @HDinicola15 have not moved since before the anthem! The players carried them to their respective dugouts and they’ve been decorated and motionless. We are in the 8th, over 2:35 like this! pic.twitter.com/0SHK6glBcw
– Batavia Muckdogs (@BataviaMuckdogs) August 15, 2019
First, a primer. A standoff like that is born when a player from each side refuses to leave the field following the national anthem and remains stationary in his anthem pose, hand over heart, daring an opponent across the way. Whoever moves first loses. More often than not, standoffs end quickly. Not Wednesday.
“Usually they don’t go past the first pitch because the umpires make you leave, but these umpires were a little different,” Dinicola said. “They were milking it, so our teammates just came and picked us up and I was like, ‘Oh, this is about to be a long one.'”
Dinicola didn’t just find himself in the duel by happenstance. The 22-year-old had been preparing for a moment such as this. He estimated he had roughly 30 standoff wins under his belt this season before meeting Haug, his worthiest of adversaries.
“I’m just happy that [the video] has kind of blown up a little bit, not just for the standoff wins but for the team because the Muckdogs have been hot all summer,” he said. “I’ve been doing this all summer and I’ve been undefeated, so just another way to keep the wins coming in is all I can do for the team.”
It started unremarkably. The fellow 2018 27th-round picks stepped in front of their respective dugouts for the anthem. When it concluded, they stayed, neither able to move, lest they break the rules of the standoff and take the “L.” When their teammates realized what was brewing, they enabled it.
“We were both on the line, like where the grass and [warning track] meet,” Dinicola said. “Obviously, they couldn’t throw the first pitch until we left, so I had two teammates (Andrew Turner and Eli Villalobos) come pick me up — so I’m still in standoff, anthem form — and they put me on the top step right where the dugout opens in the middle. [West Virginia] did the same thing. And [Haug] is staring into the sun, so I’m like, ‘All right, we’ll be here for two innings and I’ll be OK.’ Once I realized in the third or fourth when they started making Gatorade cup glasses, the chain, the body armor, I was like, ‘Oh, this is about to be a full game.'”
Batavia led after three innings, 1-0, then trailed 3-1 after the top of the fourth. Things started getting weird for the dueling duo.
“Feet definitely went numb in the second inning and I was like, ‘I’ve just got to get past this barrier and I’ll be OK,'” Dinicola said. “Left shoulder went down because it was cocked behind my back and then my hand went numb. Then I kept getting random itches on my face, so I had teammates with a towel right next to me to dab my face wherever it itched.”
The Texas A&M Corpus Christi product got approval from Batavia manager Tom Lawless, telling his skipper, “If we’re losing most of this game, I’m done. I’m not trying to stand here and win a standoff. Yeah, whatever, I’m undefeated. But in the grand scheme of things, we’re here to win games not standoffs,'” in the humblebrag of the night. The Muckdogs aided his effort.
“The only reason I was able to stand there for so long is because my team was doing so good,” he said. “I’ve got to give them all the credit. They were giving me the adrenaline to keep going because it was very hard. My body was tightening up very fast.
“My trainer [Jordan Wheat] came by and was like, ‘Hey, you good? Does anything feel bad?’ I was like, ‘Man, my calves.’ So I had teammates massaging my calves and people were giving me water, but I didn’t want to drink too much water because I didn’t want to go to the bathroom, so I’d just swish it in my mouth and spit it out. I saw [Haug], he was drinking water, so I’m like, ‘All right, he’s going to be done.’ I was really trying to strategize this.”
It wasn’t just water and massages. The Marlins’ New York-Penn League affiliate made sure its guy was protected.
“They were building like this hat contraption for [Haug],” Dinicola explained. “It was like a helmet where he could see out of his eyes. We were appalled. We didn’t know what was going on, so I was like, ‘Guys, you’ve got to build me a Gatorade [cup] chain first.’ So they put a Gatorade chain on and then were like, ‘We’ve got to put this Gatorade bottle, cut open, put it on his arm in case a foul ball comes over here.’ So the body armor was to protect me from the foul balls that never came, but also to try to one-up what [the Black Bears] were doing.”
Inning after inning, Dinicola and the Arizona product stood. In the fifth, the Muckdogs came alive.
“We were down one, had just had a solo home run (by third baseman Nic Ready in the fourth), and then we surged for like two or three more runs,” Dinicola explained. “I was like, ‘This is it. This is what the standoff has been for.’ That’s when I thought it was going to be over, but there was a phenomenal challenger on the other side.
“I’d get people from the bullpen coming down like, ‘Harry, you can’t move now. You can’t. We’re in it too long.’ So I’m probably never even going to do this again. This is like the peak for standoffs. I’m probably retiring.”
The first baseman could rest easier as the evening progressed. Batavia pulled away with three runs in the sixth and two in the eighth. But even after the Pittsburgh New York-Penn League affiliate’s Kyle Wilkie grounded into a force play to end the game, the standoff endured.
“It went to the last pitch, so after we won, my teammates picked me up to line up to give everybody high-five, so they were just touching my elbow,” Dinicola said. “And then [Haug] finally walked away, and that’s when everybody freaked out. I had no idea they were dumping the cooler on me or anything because I couldn’t see it. I was just waiting there.”
After vanquishing the toughest of foes and emerging victorious, what more remains?
“That’s kind of how I feel,” Dinicola said. “I feel like what more are you supposed to do besides stand there for three-plus hours? Let your teammates build body armor out of cups; the other guy’s doing the same thing. It’s literally past the final out. It’s over. You can’t do better than that unless they turn the lights off on us, which is never going to happen. I don’t know if we should keep doing it. I think tomorrow there should be maybe a handshake between us.
“Tomorrow definitely in [batting practice], when they’re warming up in right field, I’m going to go over to right. I’ve got to have a chat with him, ask him how he was feeling because he’s the only person who knows how it feels. It was brutal.”
Until that handshake, Dinicola — winner and still champion – will revel in the glow of hard-fought glory.
“It was like a double victory,” he said. “We just had a great team win and everybody’s telling me to stay in it for them, stay in it, we’ve got to do it for the Muckdogs. It was so much relief at one point of standing still so much and everyone was so bought into it as well. The coaching staff even cheered a little bit because I wasn’t trying to take anything away from the team or the coaches or what we just did. We pitched phenomenal, hit phenomenal. The fact that everyone was a part of it was amazing. It was just pure joy to have a double win in one night.”
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.