DURHAM, N.C. — As he looked around the clubhouse moments into a third rain delay in Sunday’s ACC Championship Game, Clemson assistant coach Bradley LeCroy noticed everyone, but one player, was on their cell phone.
Clemson was three outs from winning its first ACC Championship in 10 years when lightning at the end of the eighth inning began a one-hour and 54 minute delay, the game’s third of the day. LeCroy knew it would not be good for the team to sit around staring at their cell phones, especially after Florida State scored eight runs in the bottom of the eighth to make what was a blowout, a very interesting game when play would resume in the ninth inning.
So when catcher Chris Okey, who was watching a baseball game on the television, walked over to throw something away, LeCroy got his attention.
“He gave me the idea of, ‘Hey, go around and take everyone’s phones.’ I looked around and sure enough, everyone was on their phone,” Okey said following the Tigers’18-13 win over FSU on Sunday to win the 2016 ACC Championship. “I said, ‘I’ll do it, let’s see what happens.’”
What happened was it brought the Tigers, who have won nine straight games, even closer together and got their minds off the delay, what the Seminoles did in the eighth inning and the needed three outs to win an ACC Championship.
It got the Tigers’ loose and relaxed.
“Unfortunately, I would’ve probably been in that group, but I left my phone on the bus,” Okey said. “So yeah, I took their phones out (of their hands) and then they got all pissed off a little bit. I said, ‘Let’s play a game, help us smile a little more.’
“I got them out there, got them loose and we just won the ACC Championship.”
Okey brought the team in the center of the room and started playing a game called Mafia, a party game modeling a conflict between an informed minority, the mafia, and an uninformed majority, the innocents.
“It’s a fun game. We play it a lot,” said designated hitter and ACC Tournament MVP Mike Triller. “We play it a lot on the bus, especially when we have a long bus trip to help pass the time”
According to Wikipedia, at the start of the game, each player is secretly assigned a role affiliated with one of these teams. The game has two alternating phases: night, during which the mafia may covertly eliminate an innocent, and day, in which surviving players debate the identities of the mafia and vote to eliminate a suspect.
Play continues until all of the mafia has been eliminated or until the mafia outnumbers the innocents.
“It’s kind of hard to explain. It gets everyone involved,” Okey said. “Everyone has their own little role and it gives everyone a chance to kind of laugh and make fun of each other and get mad at each other at the same time.”
Regardless, it worked. The Tigers, at least for a little while, forgot about what was happening around them, allowing them to relax and be ready to finish off the Seminoles once play finally started back up.
“I was running around trying to figure out what the weather was going to do, and I walk in, and Okey has the guys, took their cell phones away, and made them participate in a team activity to loosen them up,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “I didn’t need to do anything. We preach to our guys, I’ve preached to this team, that if we want to achieve great things, the leaders on this team have to police themselves, and that’s a big part of leadership. You’ve got to police the ballclub, and Chris Okey did that.”
After the delay, Clemson (42-18) came back out behind pitcher Pat Krall and got the final three outs to secure he program’s 15th ACC Championship.
“There are some great story lines, but this just shows you the common belief in this group of guys and what they have been through together that they have policed themselves, and they have led this team,” Lee said. “So I’m just happy and proud of them. It’s a testament to what these guys have done. It’s just an awesome feeling for me as a head coach.”
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