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  • X-Tinct Makes it Five in a Row in Northwest Arkansas MSBL

    Northwest Arkansas MSBL

    X-Tinct 13, Wood Ducks 1

     

    'X-Tinct-Five Times in a Row and Counting:  A Dynasty Story'

    By Stephen Boudreaux

    The evolution of baseball over two centuries has witnessed countless orations romanticizing the sport. For those that actually play the game, there develops a sub-culture of feelings, demeanor, smells, sounds, and odd colloquialisms (a five-tool player, seeing-eye single, chin music, Eephus, flashing the leather, in his kitchen, unhook the trailer, "oppo”, snow cone catches, throw ‘em a chair, etc.).  The culture develops at a young age and if a player sticks to it, he or she will have in them a sense of commonness with others that allows them to bond on a level that mere observers may never understand.  We sometimes refer to it as "chemistry”.  If a team sticks together for any period of time, that chemistry can aid and assist the team in overcoming obstacles that talent alone might not. 

    There are many levels of baseball from t-ball to the Major Leagues.  If a player is talented enough to make it to the professional ranks, then they are among the fortunate few.  For the rest of us, as we complete our high school, legion, or college ball, we have the option to play Adult Amateur Baseball.  It is the "forgotten” level where the only thing that matters is pride and posterity.  When you are young, you still have a shot.  When you are a professional, you have "been there” and there is no motivation to surround yourself with lesser talent.  So…Adult Amateur Baseball like we have it here in the Northwest Arkansas Men’s Senior Baseball League (NWAMSBL) is a place where a player can continue to play the game with all the seriousness and zeal in the spirit of our chosen sport’s storied history and pick up a little pride along the way.

    The NWAMSBL has been operating as part of our community since around 1991.  The league has maintained a comfortable vibrancy over the past 26 years and has seen its share of talent come and go.  If you took a bird’s eye view of the NWAMSBL historically, there were as many as 16 teams in the league with as many as 12 of those teams in the 18+ Division in the 2006 season.   During the 2007 season, a bomb-dropping, crafty left-handed pitcher named Eric Smith teamed up with the Cassville Pirates in the 18+ Division.  Smith led the previously hapless Pirates to a Runner-Up finish that year, a Divisional Championship in 2009 and a constant run of success.  Along with winnings ways, Smith and his Pirate team attracted other quality players such as power-hitting Jose Cueto, multi-tool player, Tieler Driscoll, 2009 MVP, Dennis Marshall, and journeyman, Heath Robinson.  These players began to make a long-term nucleus that would prove out over the next 10 seasons since Smith’s arrival.

    Between 2009 and 2010 seasons, the NWAMSBL was reeling from a dramatic socioeconomic shift as well as the "aging-up” of some veteran teams in the league such as the NWA White Sox, Pirates, and others.  By the 2011 season, the Pirates had made the leap to the 25+ Division in search of competition and less of the uncertainties of the younger league.  That year, the Pirates acquired Kevin Hare and hard-throwing former Mizzou Tiger and Arizona Diamondbacks draftee, Brett Reynolds, to ace-over their already salty pitching rotation, but finished just 3rd in the Division.  In 2012, the Pirates picked up a baseball-savvy former college player, Casey Benicosa, and a scrappy super-productive non-baseball-looking Corey Campbell among others.  Pirate manager, Don Longley, was feeling the tug of life and it was evident that the team needed new leadership.  Someone to corral the amassing talent. 

    When Casey Benicosa took the reins of the Pirate team in the 2013 off-season, he and the others felt like it was time to change away from the team name that was apparently only meaningful to Longley.  They chose the tongue-in-cheek name "X-Tinct” as if to signify their status in an old-man’s league.  Choosing less-than-fashionable t-shirt style green jerseys with orange lettering, each player would don their dinosaur-themed nickname such as Kleptosaurus, Thesaurus, Big Paisaurus, Entelodon, Bambiraptor, Titansaurus, and Utahraptor.

    It didn’t take long for the X-Tinct to establish their dominance.  In their first game of the 2013 season, Smith, Reynolds, and Cueto put the entire league on notice by shellacking a potential contender 15-1. Here is the game report from that day:

    X-Tinct 15  Browns 1

    Brett Reynolds and Eric Smith power X-Tinct to season opening win over Browns. Reynolds took the mound and pitched 7 strong innings, getting 11 K's along the way. Smith had almost as many RBI's (8) as Reynolds did K's. Smith paced the offense by going 4-5 with a pair of HR's, mixing in a 2B and 3B. With his new workout regiment, stopping at 1st base just isn't an option for him anymore. Jose Cueto settled into his new role in the offense going 5-5, setting the table nicely for the rest of the lineup. Cueto also came in to finish the final 2 innings from the mound. Having limited practices the defense looked very sharp.

    On July 14, 2013, the, then 5-0 X-Tinct lost the first game of a double-header to the recently re-tooled Orioles team whose makeup was the bulk of the 2012 18+ Division Champions. Having suffered their first loss of that season, the X-Tinct not only won the second game of the series, but DID NOT LOSE ANOTHER GAME UNTIL JULY 31, 2016.  Three and a half seasons undefeated…55 games in a row.  That would mean, of course, that the X-Tinct won the NWAMSBL Championship in 2013, 2014, and 2015.  2014 saw the, then, quiet arrival of an eventual legendary masher in Ryan Paskiewicz, a do-it-all player,Spencer Adcock, and a few other utility players like trade-in player, Jared Scott and a young Josh Vanderpool.  In 2015, as all of the aforementioned players were still rostered, they added a Randy Johnson-esque tall righty, Nick Reed and scrappy middle infielder, Toby Mileham.  The X-Tinct cruised through the 2015 season and completed their three-peat title behind an MVP performance on the mound in the title game by Brett Reynolds.

     The 2016 season revealed a rare chink in the X-Tinct armor with the NWA White Sox having beaten them 3 out of 4 regular season games handing them their only three losses that year going into the playoffs. It would seem only fitting that the X-Tinct and White Sox would meet again for the title. In total X-Tinct fashion, manager Benicosa knew the remedy to the the NWA White Sox. That remedy was Nick Reed who baffled the White Sox hitters from the get go and the fourth title in a row seemed a cake-walk.

    As 2017 approached, the X-Tinct lost their manager, Casey Benicosa who left for another team in the league.  Despite his astonishing 64-4 record as a manager, Benicosa was looking to just play the game.  Long time league member, Heath Robinson, took the managerial reins with some assistance from Eric Smith and Jose Cueto.  Going into the last weekend of the regular season, the X-Tinct were undefeated yet again. They would face the only other undefeated team in the league, the Wood Ducks.  The Wood Ducks had materialized from a coup within the NWA White Sox squad led by Dakota Brissey who sought to manage his own team and take as many as eight White Sox players with him.  His decision seemed to make competitive sense as the Wood Ducks mowed through the league into that last weekend to match up with what would most likely be a prelude to the 2017 title game.  In the double header, the X-Tinct took care of the Wood Ducks 5-1 behind, oh yeah, a 2017 acquisition to the pitching staff, Tyler Wright.  In the second game, the X-Tinct were a player short-handed. The Wood Ducks decided to overrule a long-standing tradition of allowing pick-up players for regular season games and the X-Tinct eventually lost that game sending both teams to the title game with one loss each.  In the title game, the X-Tinct were seeking a fifth straight League Championship in the confines of beautiful Arvest Ball Park, Home of the AA KC Royals Affiliate, NWA Naturals. The game started with The Wood Ducks starting pitcher, Nick Wills, making quick work in the top of the first.  Tyler Wright took the mound for the X-Tinct who quickly sat the Wood Ducks down in order.  In the top of the second inning, the X-Tinct started their rally and it started to look as if, with runners on first and second with only one out that it was going to be a breeze for the X-Tinct to bring home number 5.  Then the rains came… and came.  With no end in sight, the field was two inches under water before the tarps were even considered.  As things go in baseball, a reschedule a week later creates uncertainty and scheduling concerns.  The use of the Minor League field was off the table and one never knows the sort of hops one can get on a local high school field.  This time around, it didn’t matter.  The X-Tinct picked up where they left off and took their 5th straight title over the Wood Ducks 13-1 leaving the rest of the league still scratching their heads.

    What can be done to keep them from winning another title?  Why do they keep winning?  Why does ANY team keep winning?  The aforementioned "chemistry” is one key component as the X-Tinct swear by.  Corey Campbell sums much of it up:

    "I think we have confidence in ourselves, but we also think highly of everyone on the team. We’re good ball players that enjoy playing the game, but we’re by no means exceptional. It’s not just about our personal skills in the field. We’re not going out there and trying to win the game by ourselves like a lot of others end up doing. Everyone on the team has your back, and that’s how we keep winning games. It allows us to joke around and have fun with one another."

    Utility player, Toby Mileham, who has been both a player and official in the NWAMSBL for the better part of 16 years gives this rationale:

    "I was having flashbacks of all of the teams I've been on and the group of guys I've played with. This team is by far my favorite team I've ever played on in my life. We are all brothers! We play hard and we pick each other up and most of all... we play the game the right way and do it with class."

    Ten years in the making from that initial catalyst, Eric Smith, and the X-Tinct have won the NWAMSBL Championship every year since their name inception.  Even if the league lasts until the next cataclysmic extinction event, the X-Tinct have made an indelible mark on the league’s history.  One might chalk it up to chemistry. 

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