OMAHA, Neb. — David Mills loves LSU baseball so much that on Monday, as he watched the Tigers and Oregon State face off in the second round of the College World Series from the left-center field bleachers, he had no less than eight deflated beach balls stuffed down the front of his blue jeans.
To those who are not versed in the viral trends of the last three days in Omaha, this may bring into question Mills’ sanity.
To LSU fans, it’s dedication to the program.
Mills snuck the blow-up children’s’ toys into TD Ameritrade Park because, as a Lafayette, Louisiana, native, he loves his Tigers, and on this particular night, arguably the biggest of the season thus far, what they needed most were beach balls.
So starting in the second inning, Mills began pulling beach balls out of his pants and inflating them for fans to knock around the outfield.
“We did it yesterday successfully, and we figured our luck would hold again today,” Mills said. “Not only that, but it’s such a tradition in Omaha, that I intend to uphold this tradition come hell or high water.”
If you’re still confused as to why the beach balls are so important to Mills and the Tiger Nation, it all started on Saturday night in LSU’s College World Series opener against Florida State, when, in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Tigers trailing 4-3, LSU fan Mike Anderson miss hit a flying beach ball in right field, sending it onto the warning track.
The unexpected addition to the outfield forced a brief delay as FSU outfielder Steven Wells threw it back into the stands.
The next pitch, LSU’s Antoine Duplantis slapped a ground ball right at Wells who missed the routine play.
From there, calamity ensued for the Seminoles as they committed three errors on the play, opening the door for LSU to score the tying run. Later that inning, the Tigers scored the go-ahead run on their way to victory.
“We were in the front row in right field,” Anderson told the Advocate. “The ball was bouncing around among the right field fans. It was going into the outfield and I went to hit it to the kids and it went off my fingertips and went back further onto the field by the right fielder.”
Since then, #RallyBeachBall has been a viral sensation on social media, spawning the creation of a parody twitter account, @RallyBeachball, that, as of midway through Monday’s game, had 100 tweets and more than 2,000 followers.
During Sunday’s team practice, several fans, including Anderson, had LSU players and coaches sign beach balls as personal mementoes.
ESPN sideline reporter Laura Rutledge did a segment during the first inning of Monday's game with a pink beach ball at her side, telling baseball fans across the country about how people were sneaking them into the park.
There were even reports on Twitter about stadium security confiscating beach balls from fans hoping to inspire another LSU rally, a system that proved ineffective as there were as many as four beach balls bouncing around the bleachers at any given time.
Beach balls are on the prohibited list of items at TD Ameritrade and have been for years. But that hasn’t stopped fans from bringing them into the stadium just about every June. Mills personally speculates he’s snuck in 24 beach balls over the past three seasons.
Stadium security spokesperson Kristi Anderson declined to comment on the rally beach ball sensation, other than to say that beach balls have been prohibited for many years due to the delays they inevitably cause and security discourages fans from bringing them into the stadium. If caught violating the rule, it would be grounds for removal from the stands.
“It’s marvelous,” Mills said of the beach balls. “Once more, it’s part of the game. The College World Series, held here in Omaha, is a special event and something I’ve come to love. The beach ball aspect of it is absolutely intriguing. I’ve personally become a fanatic about it. I love what happened yesterday, and it just goes to show, furthermore, that it should stay a tradition.”
Of course this isn’t the first time LSU fans have flocked to superstition to spur on their team.
The Tigers famously brought to life the Rally Possum during the 2016 season after the marsupial ran on the field at Alex Box Stadium.
In 2012, LSU players kept Mouton the Rally Monkey in the dugout as an impromptu team mascot.
But even in all the hype, not all are convinced of the rally items’ powers.
“You guys love all that stuff,” said LSU catcher Michael Papierski, dismissing the effects of the beach ball. “I didn’t even see the beach ball at all. You’ve just got to tip your hat to Antoine for that big hit.”