April 15, 2014
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
With a three-game sweep of Villanova this past weekend and an unblemished 6-0 record in the BIG EAST, you would have to say it was a pretty good weekend for the Xavier Musketeers. But when you consider the fact that their biggest victory of the weekend came off the field, you get a feel for how special a weekend it truly was for Xavier.
When the last out was put in the books after the Musketeers’ 4-0 victory over the Wildcats Sunday afternoon, the players gathered around home plate where they were met by barbers and hair stylists. No, the Musketeers are not a pampered bunch getting ready for their night on the town. They were there to have their heads shaved as they raised money for the Vs. Cancer Foundation to benefit Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital.
Within a short period of time over a dozen players as well as head coach Scott Googins, assistant coach Billy O’Connor and head trainer Jody Jenike had their respective locks shorn by eager barbers.
The end result was a slew of new hairdos and over $11,000 raised to fight cancer.
“Coach O’Connor brought it up to us at a practice during the winter and said this is for anyone who wants to do it, you’re not forced to do it, but it’s for a great cause and we’re going to raise money,” said senior righthander Scott Klever, who was named BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week on Monday. “He said, ‘I’m going to do it and coach Googins is going to do it.’ I had long hair at that point and we have a pretty strict policy about having long hair so I was going to have to have it cut anyway so I figured I would just do this because it was a for a good cause.”
But that didn’t mean there weren’t some “what did I get myself into?” moments, especially for Klever.
“I would say I was thinking about it pretty much the whole day Sunday,” said Klever, who earned his fifth win of the season in a 5-0 victory over Villanova on Saturday. “I had pitched the day before so when I woke up (Sunday) I did my usual workout and my hair is always in my face. That’s when it hit me that it will all be gone in about four hours. I got a little nervous because I had never buzzed my hair before.”
Klever said was the barber’s first victim on Sunday and it led to laughs - and to some having second thoughts.
“I was the first one in,” Klever said. “And when (teammate) Adam Hall saw me (after his buzz cut) he got a little nervous and decided not to do it. There were definitely some funny reactions. But I’m liking it a lot. I keep catching myself in class feeling my head because I had a lot of hair before.”
Junior catcher Derek Hasenbeck was another who took part, saying, “It’s good, I like the new look. It’s for a good cause and I’m pretty happy about it.”
But for Hasenbeck there was also a personal connection. Her name is Alexis Johnson and she lives in Poway, California, Hasenbeck’s hometown.
“One of my coaches in high school, his daughter had cancer and she actually ended up having her leg amputated from her mid-femur down,” Hasenbeck said. “She’s on a prosthetic leg right now and she’s doing really well. So I kind of did it for her and to show my support for others as well. She has a blade prosthetic that she runs with and I think she’s trying to make the Paralympics with that.”
Klever said he has never known anyone stricken with the disease, but that did not make the cause any less meaningful to him.
“I personally have not known anyone but I know cancer touches a lot of people,” Klever said. “My grandmother had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and I know it’s not the same thing but I know the feeling of having a loved one who is suffering and anything you can do to help is always good. A little goes a long way. Just shaving your head does a lot for the kids who are affected by it so we just wanted to get involved and help out.”
The event drew cheers from fans while parents took to the field to take photos of their son’s new look.
“All the fans stuck around and were watching and some of the parents came so it was a pretty good environment,” Hasenbeck said. “There were some laughs and when the first person was done there was a lot of clapping and a lot of support from the fans as well. It’s just a great cause and when people ask why we cut our hair we just say we’re trying to raise awareness about cancer.”
Other Xavier players who lost their locks for the cause include Jake Forrester, Jacob Bodner, Joey Noble, Brian Bruening, Markus Kuykendoll, Jason Hall, Joe Forney, Patrick Jones, Eric Stiene, Chase Puente, Daniel Przeniczny and Sean Campbell.
The goal was to reach $10,000 and the Musketeers topped that by more than $1,000. It was another victory on a weekend full of victories for Xavier.
“That’s awesome,” Klever said. “We were a little short there for a few weeks and Jody Jenike got on board and she was unbelievable, she raised over $3,000. And then we started getting donations from Xavier fans and baseball supporters. It was awesome the support we got.”
Now with their financial goal more than achieved and their hair long gone, what was the day after like?
“We look at each other and we don’t recognize each other right away because we’re not used to seeing each other with no hair,” Hasenbeck said laughing.
All of which leads to the unavoidable question: Who looks the strangest with their new ‘do?
“I’m getting some strange looks because I look completely different,” Klever said. “(But) I’m going to say Sean Campbell, my roommate. He’s got a funny looking head and we told him that - but it’s all in good fun.”