By Henry Abbott
TrueHoop reader Reid Sassman writes the following about his 2001 visit to Duke University:
Duke had just won the National Championship in March when I was a junior in high school. I visited Duke with my friend Travis to see if we wanted to go there for college, and we spent Friday night with a friend of his. Saturday afternoon his friend was still asleep at like two in the afternoon so we went to the quad to go toss a football around and talk to people about how they liked Duke.
So we're out there throwing the football and Shane Battier and Chris Duhon walk out onto the quad and start throwing a wiffleball back and forth kind of near us. Somehow Duhon overthrows Battier (how you overthrow a 6-8 basketball player I don't know) and the ball comes rolling to me. So I pick it up and throw it back to Battier.
Honestly, it was just like a movie scene or something. Battier catches it and asks, "You play baseball man?" and I tell him "Yeah I play for my high school." Then he shocked the hell out of both of us by saying "Wanna play wiffleball with us? We're waiting for some of the guys to get here." Of course Travis and I say yes, and 10 minutes later we're starting up a wiffleball game with pretty much the entire championship team minus Jason Williams. Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer, Nick Horvath, Dahntay Jones, Reggie Love, Matt Christensen, etc.
I was on a team with Battier, Dunleavy, Jones, Christensen, and some others. Our opponents were Duhon, Love, Boozer, Horvath, my friend Travis and some others. A few things stand out:
The one non-basketball playing Duke student on my team was clearly not a baseball player and was a terrible hitter. Battier was giving him tips and helped him with his swing when we weren't on the field. You could tell Battier really wanted to win, but he wasn't a jerk about the fact that this guy couldn't hit.
Dahntay Jones was REALLY fast in the field. He could chase down anything remotely resembling a fly ball.
Battier was definitely the best wiffleball player, he could hit the ball a MILE. He hit a home run and a bunch of doubles and triples. Every time he came up the outfielders would stand further back, and he would just hit it even further than the previous at-bat (there was no fence).
We played nine innings, by the end there was probably a crowd of 150 Dukies watching the game.
I was having a good day, and got on base six times out of seven with a bunch of singles and walks. Unfortunately, my only out was the last of the game, with our team down one run in the bottom of the ninth. I'm not kidding that I felt bad for letting Shane down. In a wiffle ball game.
But it was clear that all the other guys really looked up to him. He was so obviously the leader of the team, and also a really nice guy, that he’s been my favorite player ever since. The whole “Battier is a plus/minus poster boy” is so much fun for me, because even though I ended up going to the University of Virginia, I’ve been cheering for his brand of efficient basketball since that day on the quad.