Baseball Map: Reno…Frisco…The Burg

6/28/05 – Daily News Record

Nevada Players Always Have A Buddy Nearby By DUSTIN DOPIRAK Daily News-Record When Lucas Delong called his Harrisonburg Turks teammate Scott Cousins on their day off Monday and asked him if he wanted to go the gym, Cousins initially balked at the idea. But Delong wasn’t giving up that easy. "He was like, ‘Are you going to go lift today?’" Cousins said. "I was like, ‘I don’t feel like it.’ He was like, ‘Come on.’ [I said] ‘All right.’" If Delong had been talking to any of his other teammates, the ones he’s known only since the Valley League baseball season started three weeks ago, he might not have felt comfortable pushing. And if anyone else had been pushing, Cousins might not have felt guilty about taking a day off. But these guys have been driving each other since Cousins was 11 and Delong was 10, playing against each other in recreational league basketball games at a YMCA near Reno, Nev. Cousins grew up in Reno and Delong in Sparks, about 10 miles away. When it came time for college, they decided to play baseball together at the University of San Francisco, where they will be juniors in the fall. Each knows where the other wants to go, and what he has to do to get there. That can be valuable in an NCAA-sanctioned summer league, a place where strangers try to mesh into a team as they hone their skills. "A lot of times, if we’re by ourselves, it seems like we slack off more," Cousins said. "… Plus [other players] work on different things. For us, we have the same weightlifting packet, we have the same offensive and defensive approaches. Everything we do is the same. It makes it a lot easier to get things done and to be comfortable." The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Cousins, a center fielder, is leading Harrisonburg (11-10) in batting average, hitting .383 with a home run and six RBIs since joining the squad two weeks ago. Delong – a 6-2, 210 right fielder — is hitting .271 with two home runs and 12 RBIs heading into today’s 7:30 p.m. game at Woodstock (8-13). But it isn’t just about pushing and driving in the weight room and on the field. It’s about having someone who knows what you’ve already been through to talk to when things get tough. It’s about being 2,600 miles away from home, but still having someone who can talk about things that happened years ago. "It’s a lot easier when you have somebody there to pick you up when you’re down or enjoy things when times are fun," Delong said. "You get to experience things and share memories with someone that’s so close to you. … We talk about our seasons, talk about our success in college or our non-success. We can talk about what’s going on back home, our old friends, everything." That has made life easier for both Delong, who had been to Virginia only for a week in high school for a student council conference, and Cousins, who had never been this far from Reno. Cousins was originally supposed to play in the Central Illinois Collegiate League this summer, but found out he would have to pay his own way, shelling out for rent among other things. When Cousins told Delong he didn’t want to play there, Delong told Turks owner/manager Bob Wease that Cousins was looking for a place to play. Wease, who had been hoping to get Cousins since the fall, welcomed him with open arms. Having Delong in Virginia made it an easy sell. And the Turks pay their players’ expenses. Out of high school, both players wanted to get away from Reno, but both knew they’d need some connection to home to make the transition easy. They were being recruited by mostly the same schools — Long Beach State, Nevada-Reno, Nevada-Las Vegas, Santa Clara and San Francisco. When they took their official visit to USF together, they were sold. Cousins hit .309 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs at San Francisco this past spring, and Delong hit .279 with four home runs and 18 RBIs, helping the Dons to a 38-18 record. Cousins, a lefthander, also went 8-5 on the mound with a 2.64 ERA. "They’re two very special players," San Francisco coach Nino Giarratano said. "They’re both very well-tooled. They both can run. They can hit for power and play great defense. Scott Cousins hasn’t even pitched down there and that’s his greatest asset." Bob Wease is finding out the same thing. "They’re both great players and they’re very important to us," Wease said. "And they play together well in the outfield. You don’t have to worry about them running into each other out there, because they know each other’s habits. They’ve been playing together forever." Maybe not forever, but close.