It’s an uncommon sight, watching a baseball game in which Michael Jackson pitches to a gorilla, who flies out to Mario in right field.
But Monday night that was the scene at English Field. The Virginia Tech baseball team ditched their uniforms and donned costumes for the second annual ALS Awareness Halloween Game.
The event was created last year by former Hokies head coach Pete Hughes, who saw the devastating effects of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) firsthand while coaching at Boston College.
“We worked hard the whole fall. This is a nice little thing to end on, a little treat for us,” said senior pitcher Brad Markey. “We’re goofing off, but it’s for a good cause: ALS awareness. People need to know what that is and how bad it is. This game is just to lighten everyone’s experience and it’s for the fans that come out and have fun.”
Markey made his Hokies debut last season after transferring from Georgia Tech, going 5-4 with a 4.90 ERA. His ERA took a heavy hit after a dreadful March, in which he allowed 28 earned runs over four starts.
Aside from the rough stretch in the middle of the season, Markey, who was disguised Monday as Zoro, cape and all, pitched well in 2012 and will be a large factor on a staff that lost its other two weekend starters.
Devin Burke and Joe Mantiply, who now pitch in the Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers farm systems respectively, combined for a 17-4 record last year for the Hokies.
“It’s always tough to replace the pitching, because proven winners on the mound are invaluable,” said first year head coach Pat Mason, who traded in his Hokies uniform for a Captain America getup.
“There are so many ways to score runs in baseball. In the past couple years we’ve really been built on that 3-run homer, but we can still figure out ways to manufacture, score runs, do all that. But a winner on the mound is a winner on the mound. You lose guys like Joe and Devin, those guys are tough to replace.”
Sean Keselica, who pitched 31.2 innings last year before being shut down with arm troubles, has had a strong fall and looks to join Markey in a key role on the hill for the Hokies.
While plenty of positions are still welcoming competition for starting spots, including shortstop, third base and the outfield, Mason will count on veterans to provide production and leadership.