A Florida high school baseball coach will no longer have a say in the naming of his unborn son after the team he coaches won the right to do so.
Rob Querry, the head coach of the Panthers varsity team at Heritage High School in Palm Bay, Fla., was looking for a way to motivate his team, which had never had a winning season in their seven-year existence.
“Our team’s goal was to win 14 games,” said Querry. “Fourteen was the goal all along.”
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With just a 27-game schedule, a 14-win season would guarantee the team would make the district playoffs.
But after a pair of losses to open the season, he could see his team beginning to doubt the goal would be achievable.
“I’ve seen many players quit in the face of adversity,” said Querry, who is in his second year leading the team.
“You guys are better than this,” Querry recalls telling his players early in the season. “You guys are winners.”
But the supportive words were not enough to inspire his players.
Determined to excite his squad, Querry began thinking of other ways to get through to them.
During an ultrasound appointment with his wife Julia, an idea came to Querry.
While staring at an ultrasound picture of his unborn son, he turned to his wife and asked, “How do you feel about telling the boys that if they win 14 games they get to name the baby?”
Thinking he was kidding, Querry’s wife laughingly agreed.
Little did she know, Querry followed through on the plan, and the players immediately decided on a name.
“It’s gotta be Benny Smalls,” they told him, a combination of Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez and Scotty Smalls from the movie “The Sandlot.”
But when Querry told his wife about the player’s excitement, she was less enthused.
“You did what?” Querry remembers his wife exclaiming.
But the plan worked.
The team started winning, and Querry began seeing a sharp improvement in his players.
“Our guys have gotten better every day,” he says.
The victories on the field even started to count for wins off the field, as Benny Smalls began to grow on Querry’s wife.
“She started warming to the name Benjamin.”
Querry’s wife was convinced of the name when the director of “The Sandlot,” who had heard about the bet, provided the team with new jerseys and baseballs, and even visited them in the dugout.
“Okay, I’m in,” Querry’s wife told him. “But I’m not doing Smalls.”
The team went on to win 13 of their next 18 games, and on Tuesday secured the naming rights with their 14th win of the season.
The players celebrated their achievement by chanting “Benny, Benny, Benny!” on the field after the game.
Querry and his wife took photos with the team, while holding a banner that read, “Coming in September 2016 Benjamin Smalls Querry.”
Despite the winning season, and a new baby name, Querry knows there is still more work to be done to make this the storybook season he hoped for.
“Now we want to win the district,” he said. “And make school history.”