Missouri at Alabama
- Schedule: Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m., Sunday at noon
- Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
- Records: Alabama 10-7, Missouri 16-1
- TV: SEC Network (all three games)
- Radio: 102.9 FM
By Drew Hill
Special to Tidesports.com
When sophomore Cobie Vance takes off his cleats and leaves Sewell-Thomas Stadium, the game follows him. Unlike a shadow, he brings it by choice.
Vance has spent plenty of time on the diamond. He was the only freshman to start all 58 games last season for the University of Alabama baseball team. But he longs for competition even when the game is done.
“I would say I’m the most competitive person on the team,” Vance said earlier this season.
His teammates agree. Jokes are one thing, trash talk is another, and Vance finds ways to disperse his needed dose of both to those around him.
“Me and (Cobie) are actually roommates,” sophomore pitcher Dylan Duarte said. “We always compete, (in practice) and at home in video games, so we are always competitive with each other.”
Duarte and Vance have three different video-game consoles they use to play against each other and the other members of the team. If it’s a sports game, Vance is playing it. The roommates even have a classic NCAA baseball game from 2005 that they still use. When it’s not video games, Vance will find something else competitive to do. They may turn to the basketball hoop hanging on a door in their apartment.
“I’ll say, ‘Hey Dylan, bet I can make more shots than you.’ Then we’ll bet on who can make the most shots out of 10,” Vance said. “It could be pool, ping pong, doing a puzzle: I don’t care what it is, I want to be first in everything I do.”
If he wins, he’ll be the first to let Duarte hear it. And should he lose, it’s no different than being on the baseball field. Vance takes every little competition seriously, especially when facing off against his roommate.
“It gets to where we won’t talk to each other when the other one beats us for like a couple of days,” Vance said.
Regardless of the current communication status between the two sophomores, Vance believes the sometimes not-so-friendly competition has made them better teammates.
“When we’re playing, when he’s on the mound, it’s like a brother kind of deal,” Vance said. “It’s almost like if they hit him, I’m like ‘I’m going to go get one for you. I’m going to go get a hit for you.’ It’s kind of protecting him. He’ll do the same thing. Like the other day, I missed a ball up the middle and he was like ‘Man, you’ve got to have that, but it’s all good. I’ll go get you.’ Then he got out of the inning.”
It’s worked for Vance and for Duarte this season. Vance leads Alabama with 15 RBIs and a .391 batting average. Duarte is 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA. He threw six shutout innings in his last start. They’ll both be key pieces as the Crimson Tide opens SEC play this weekend against Missouri.
Vance hasn’t always had the competitive edge that has become a large part of his personality. It was something he had to develop.
“I think my competitiveness got worse once I got (to college),” Vance said. “I’ve always had a strong will to win, but in high school, I was trying to get drafted. I was trying to get Division I scholarships. It was more about myself.
“But once I got to school, it became win by any means and that translated to win video games, ping pong, win in everything that I do.”
His coaches see it, too. It’s part of what they appreciate the most about Vance.
“He doesn’t get sped up,” head coach Greg Goff said. “He’s not afraid. He wants to be in that situation. He is always right in the middle of everything.”