MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Every good baseball team seems to have a creative home run celebration these days.
In the past, West Virginia baseball players have celebrated a teammate’s home run with a Viking helmet or a cowboy hat. Other college teams have used sledgehammers, a Nerf basketball set, or other props.
However, due to NCAA rules, teams are required to keep their celebratory props in the dugout this year.
Through the first 31 games of the season, No. 18 West Virginia (29-11, 8-4 Big 12) celebrated home runs the same way baseball teams have for decades — high-fives, slaps on the back, and sunflower seeds.
But junior pitcher Ben Hampton knew the Mountaineer home run hitters needed some swag after they blast a pitch over the fence.
Enter the pretzel necklace.
“I kind of just made it to make everyone laugh. I honestly got bored in the dugout,” said Hampton. “But it turned out to be our home run chain, and I think people kind of enjoy it.”
Boredom sparked creativity.
Hampton, who had pitched two days prior, began piecing together a necklace out of pretzels near the fourth inning of the team’s series finale against Kansas. The inspiration for his dugout art project came while eating a bag of pretzels, no less.
“When I was younger I would stick them together,” added Hampton. “It just kind of came to me that I should start putting them together. And somebody said, hey, let’s make it into a full chain. So, I did.”
Hampton had to work quickly to piece it together. More on how he does it later.
The necklace debuted in the fourth inning when Landon Wallace hit a home run to right field.
“Someone was like, ‘Put it on him! Put it on him!'” said Hampton. “I didn’t know if it was going to break at first. We put it on, and it stuck.”
Wallace had the honor of wearing the team’s new home run necklace twice that day. Grant Hussey wore it in the seventh when he homered to center field. Starting with Wallace’s home run in the fourth, the Mountaineers have homered 11 times since Hampton’s creation was made.
The pretzel necklace has been in use for two weeks now, and is still in one piece. The fact that it remains in one piece is somewhat incredible. The necklace has two components: pretzels from the Mountaineer dugout, and nature’s glue — saliva.
“I think the mold might be holding it together,” Hampton said laughingly.
Hampton’s creation did break during Saturday’s comeback win over TCU. A hearty slap on the back of Ellis Garcia was too much for the necklace to handle. But after some “emergency surgery,” as Hampton called it, WVU’s home run chain was pieced back together.
According to Hampton, only one new pretzel has been added to the link since it was created. The addition was put on Saturday as part of the necklace-saving operation inside the Mountaineer dugout.
“The games that they want to play in the dugout, if they have fun playing the game, I’m all about it,” said skipper Randy Mazey. “If you live in this community, and haven’t seen our team play yet, you have no idea what you’re missing.”
However, a bite was almost taken out of it by Carlson Reed, who was unaware of what was holding the individual pretzels together. Hampton has since informed the team of the necklace’s bonding agent.
The necklace hangs in the dugout when it’s not being used during home games.
It’s far from the flashiest piece of jewelry that has ever been inside the WVU clubhouse, but it is arguably the most creative and the one that means the Mountaineers added to their run total when being worn.