‘Deckheads’ become new tradition at games

The Deckheads show their support during a UNA baseball game earlier this year.

When UNA’s baseball players play at home, they know they can count on a devoted group of students to be right there with them.

They get there early and they stay for the whole game. You can hear them cheering, as well as heckling, and you can see them behind right field in solid numbers. They are not afraid of the cold, the rain or complaining coaches from opposing teams. They are known as the Deckheads, and they are exactly what college fans should be.

Started in 2011 by students Jeff Ritter, Josh Penney, Nick McGregor, Scott Fleming, Qualon Millender and Robby Burdine, the Deckheads have become a staple at all home baseball games for the Lions.

“We saw how other schools had big turnouts and fan sections at baseball games and we really wanted to get that started here at UNA,” Ritter said. “We set up shop out here behind right field, and we’re here to stay.”

The decks were built by the baseball program, and Ritter’s Rally Shack, as it was originally called, quickly sprouted up.

“We talked to coach Keehn and coach Hancock, and they supported what we were doing,” Penney said.

Five flags spelling out “LIONS” flap in the breeze above the heads of the students on the deck. Large cardboard cutouts of Keehn and Hancock are also displayed on the outfield fence.

When the opposing team’s coach makes a trip to the pitching mound, the Deckheads can be heard belting out a call and response chant: “Take him out! Leave him in! Take him out! Leave him in!”

When UNA is on the verge of starting an offensive surge: “Rally, rally, the pitcher’s name is Sally” rains down on the opposing team from right field.

If a UNA batter hits a double, he stands on second base and turns to the Deckheads, bumping both fists on his helmet signifying “moose,” a tradition started by the players and carried on by their faithful fans.

A seventh-inning stretch tradition started by the Deckheads gives the loyal fans a moment in the spotlight as they belt out “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond over their own speakers. And just like they do at Fenway Park, the music is cut down just in time for the fans to emphatically vocalize the “bah, bah, bah” of the chorus.

After a big win, you might see junior Drew Humphrey make his way from the dugout out to right field to jump onto the fence to celebratory pats and high fives from the Deckheads. This has come to be known as the “Hump Jump.”

“We’re sad that this season is coming to an end,” Ritter said. “We want this to grow and for more students to come out and have a great time while we cheer on our team.”

Penney said the aim of the group is simple.

“It’s all about grilling out, cheering on our team and giving the other team a hard time,” he said. “We just want to have a good time and support one of our best programs here at UNA.”