Under the Glove

Sierra College Sports baseball player, Bradley Morris prepares to swing his bat in a game, sunny day, other players on the field at Sierra College

The world of sports is full of heart-racing competition and moments, from the excitement that comes when a soccer player scores a goal to a double play on the baseball diamond. These are some of the things fans and athletes live for. They fuel the passion and enjoyment that comes from sports. Moments like these are captured in media highlights and can add to engagement, but there is a longer story that goes on outside these few minute highlights. 

Sports Highlights and Stories

Highlights are found on sites like YouTube and allow people to relive the performance in a way that has not always been possible. Discourse can be had with much more ease, with this usually being done in the form of criticism or analysis of said highlights. It includes conversation regarding the athletes, as players and even things regarding their character or life story. The athlete’s performance and the analysis of player and team performance is the pinnacle of sports conversation. This is how each team’s success is measured compared to their opponents, showcasing who’s really the best.

But the conversations regarding athletes as people with stories is a different matter. This kind of discourse would be deeper than just comments based on their abilities or the given sport. At the end of the day, this discourse is speaking on individuals that we will never truly know. We don’t know these athletes personally, and they are entitled to share what they choose about their personal lives or story. No matter how you feel about an athlete or sports as a whole, a person’s humanity always persists. 

While the normal sports fan may be aware of Major League Baseball star Jose Altuve, his story is just an example of the various experiences an athlete has encountered before reaching where they are today. It’s also an example of how star athletes can choose to share information about themselves to add to the livestream of sports knowledge. This helps us further see and embrace that human side of sports, outside of the very human emotions that sports in itself makes us feel. These stories are very real and filled with their own nuances that differentiate us as humans. This is true despite their elevated position in society and at times celebrity-like status. 

Even Michael Jordan, known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time and forever a famous individual, has a very human story and personality behind the legend. His is a story that has been told by other people plenty of times, so there’s no need to cover that now. There is however a need and a value in covering local community college worlds of sports.

Making Wolverine Whistle

We are a team of student-journalists interested in sports at Sierra College where our mascot is the “wolverine.” We brainstormed a name and chose Wolverine Whistle. We wanted to get behind social media style highlights and learn more. We created WW in an effort to learn about both the person and the player. 

Collegiate athletes are often interviewed about their performance on the field and what they are doing to improve, but there is more to a player than their skill. Athletes in every level of the game have unique upbringings that got them to where they are, especially those playing at community colleges. Yet, they often get the least coverage. 

We want to know more about them at the Wolverine Whistle. They might be players who had limited options and are working hard to elevate their game, or they could be from top schools and suffered an injury and are now seeking a second chance. Wolverine Whistle’s goal is to show students at Sierra some of the athletes we have competing for us and the coaches behind them so our sports world can be better known.

From the Dugout to the Field 

Baseballs were flying over the verdant grounds of Sierra College’s Rocklin campus in the spring of 2024. We joined up with top players Mason Oliphant and Bradley Morris, along with their coach, Robert Wilson, to get an inside look at the squad and their journey through the season, the sound of the bat cracking and the distant cheers set the scene.

Mason Oliphant (left) and Bradley Morris (right) at Sierra College, March 8th, 2024, photo by Alexis Barone.

Sierra College has many talented and amazing athletes.  Our team chose to focus on the baseball team for this story and we were lucky enough to get an interview with two of their athletes, Mason Oliphant and Bradley Morris. 

On February 28, 2024, our Sierra College Baseball team defeated San Joaquin Delta’s team at home 4-3. The game itself was a fun and competitive one, literally going down to the final play at the bottom of the ninth. High stakes went into this play, as the Wolverines were down with two outs to the home team’s name. 

With Oliphant making the final hit, he sealed the lead and the win. This win was a crucial one for the Wolverines, as the game was an important conference game after a close loss to the same team the day prior. Due to this, we just knew we had to cover this game. With it in mind, Bradley Baniaga and Alexis Barone interviewed Mason Oliphant and teammate, Bradley Morris, the day after the game, Feb. 29 in the Library on the Rocklin campus. 

When Baniaga asked them about the importance of being locked into the game, Oliphant and Morris held a somewhat synched agreement. Morris said, “You can’t let your emotions take over your mindset when you’re up there. So yeah, just focusing on keeping your brain right and not letting your emotions take over.” Oliphant agreed,“Yeah, baseball is pretty much all mental, probably eighty-ninety percent of it is just your brain– controlling that.”

Barone interviewed Oliphant and Morris about their stories. Oliphant said that he is originally from Reno, Nevada. He is a sophomore at Sierra and in his second year playing for the team. He  is an outfielder but surprisingly, he grew up playing as an infielder. During his junior year of high school he switched over to outfielder and has played that position ever since. Growing up watching baseball he was a Giants fan. The player who he looked up to the most was Buster Posey

During the offseason Oliphant plays summer ball. Last year he played in Palm Springs. He plays summer ball to get his body in better shape for the next season. He hopes in the future that he ends up going to a 4-year to continue to play baseball. Once he’s done with school and baseball he is deciding  if he would like to go to graduate school and become a lawyer or go into real estate. 

Oliphant’s teammate, Bradley Morris is a sophomore. He redshirted his first year. “Redshirting” refers to a player who is kept on the roster but does not actively participate in games for a set length of time, usually one year. He said he enjoyed redshirting since he was still able to travel with the team during their games. This is his second year playing for Sierra. Morris is from Placerville, California. 

Morris is a catcher for Sierra. “Pretty much I’m a catcher.  I don’t remember the last time I didn’t want to catch.” he also grew up watching baseball with his family and being a Giants fan. . This got him more into baseball and although being a Giants fan, he really looked up to Derek Fisher

During the offseason, Morris  played summer ball in Palm Springs, too.  He also goes into the gym and does workouts to try and get bigger for the season that is coming up. Morris talked about how important conditioning was for professional baseball players. He said, “I mean the best players in the world are just physically on another level than everyone else. Even if he hasn’t had the best mechanics possible he still needs to have the muscle mass to be able to perform at the highest level.” Morris’s hope for  the future is to play baseball for a 4-year and pursue a degree in finance. 

Every year is different for Oliphant and Morris but one memory that stuck out for them happened last year. In their 2023 season, during the final four, they were up against Folsom Lake College and ended up walking it out in the bottom of the ninth to win the game and qualify to the next round. 

They have great team chemistry with their teammates which is what makes the game fun for them. “For me it’s just being around the team, being around your guys and having fun,” Oliphant said when being asked what part of the game they love the most. They were very excited to see what the season will bring out for them this year.

Behind The Moves

Sierra College assistant baseball coach, Robert Wilson, April 25th, 2024. Photo by Rodolfo Gomez.

A closer understanding of the team and its players often stems from the coaching staff, particularly individuals like former head coach and now assistant coach Robert Wilson, whose tenure of over two decades at Sierra has afforded him a comprehensive view of the team’s evolution. Wilson provides invaluable insights into the team’s chemistry, player outlook, and strategies for navigating setbacks, offering a seasoned perspective from within the coaching ranks. 

While the composition of the team may have changed from last year, the primary focus of the coaching staff remains constant: to cultivate and enhance the players’ skills for overall improvement. As Coach recalled, “Making them understand that in this game you fail more than you succeed.”

Wilson expanded on the uncertainty surrounding the team’s prospects heading into the season and how the overall team composition would shape up. He admitted that there were unknowns for him and the coaching staff regarding the roster and the type of players they would have. Nonetheless, Wilson is fully aware that the players would be committed and dedicated as the season progresses.

Despite the transition from the previous season, maintaining the same standards remained paramount. Nevertheless, the coach expressed his excitement and appreciation for the players’ unwavering dedication to self-improvement on a daily basis, regardless of the prevailing circumstances.

Wilson highlighted the commitment of the players by mentioning, “At the end of practice, we see 10 to 15 guys hitting on the cage,” emphasizing that this extra effort is self-motivated. Despite not actively encouraging it, the coaching staff is supported by the players’ intrinsic drive to excel.

Wilson’s most notable observation over the years is the remarkable success of players transitioning to Division-1 programs or even being drafted into MLB teams. While talent certainly plays a role, it doesn’t guarantee advancement to the next level. With numerous players on the team, this year could be pivotal for some in receiving offers to play at higher levels. However, as he emphasizes, “you don’t do it without working… spending time in the cage and weight room in order to become a D-1 player.”

The journey that athletes embark on with their coaching staff is a vital pathway toward maximizing player potential and achieving success in the future. This process involves a multifaceted approach, encompassing various stages and interactions aimed at nurturing talent, honing skills, and fostering a winning mindset. 

Wolverine Whistle Wrap 

We made Wolverine Whistle to help fans and students know more about sports and athletes on our campus. Getting to know their story and how they got to our campus instead of just looking at their statistics in the game was important to us. Fans become more intrigued with a player when they can connect with them on a personal level through their story. 

Our goal with the Wolverine Whistle is to provide a platform where Sierra athletes and core members of teams can come and share about their game and themselves. We want to give them the ability to share about the person they are so people can relate to them and help them gather more supporters. Students at Sierra College would be more interested in our sports programs and players if they knew more about them.  

Knowing the players for more than just the highlights is important. While highlights are still necessary to assess the skills a player possesses, they show us limited information about the person within the player. We at Wolverine Whistle wanted to share both. Highlights are what most see, but a lot truly came before, after, and even during the game. 

Stories like the ones we’ve told here illustrate the hard work and fun of athletes and coaching staff that make up a team. There’s literally a much longer game that goes on outside of the few-minute highlights you can see about a game on social media. Here’s to more sports stories by future teams of Wolverine Whistle. 

Reported, Written, and Photographed by Bradley Baniaga, Alexis Barone, Rodolfo Gomez, and Drake Woodford

Wolverine Whistle, from left to right: Drake Woodford, Alexis Barone, Bradley Baniaga, and Rodolfo Gomez. Woodford is from Grass Valley. He is focussing on getting his Associate of Arts for Transfer (AAT) in Journalism and becoming a pilot. Barone is from Rocklin and completing her AAT in Communication. She will transfer to the University of Alabama in fall 2024. Baniaga is originally from Los Angeles and working to obtain his AAT in Journalism. Gomez is from Roseville and he too is completing his AAT in Journalism. They all enjoy watching and listening to sports games and doing sports journalism.

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