MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Utility players are commonly the backbone of some baseball programs.
It just so happens the Chillicothe American Legion Post 757 Colts have four such players on their roster.
Each claims they could play any position on the baseball diamond if need be, each has their own unique identity and each expresses the yearning to help out their team in any way possible — the utter definition of a utility player.
Here’s a breakdown of Post 757’s self-coined “Fearsome Foursome.”
Zack Stapleton, aka Porter, 2B/C
Possessing quite possibly the most vibrant personality on the team is Zack Stapleton.
The Jackson High School product has a reputation of always running his chops and loving the game of baseball. In fact, those two things earned him the nickname “Porter,” pointing toward a timeless classic baseball movie — “The Sandlot” — for inspiration.
Stapleton — red hair, freckles and all — can be seen off the field sporting a tank top with the movie character’s face and the words “You Play Ball Like a Girl!” printed in large letters or on the field at his usual second base position.
“Coming to Post 757 was the best decision for me at the time, and it was a good choice,” Stapleton said. “When I first joined the team, I was chunkier, played catcher and never shut up. Coach (Tom) Barr started calling me ‘Porter’ from ‘The Sandlot,’ and it just caught on.”
“Porter” has done everything for the Colts but sell popcorn in the stands during the team’s 2015 ‘Southern Swing’ trip. Now that it has come to an end, he’s also got some high expectations in mind for his teammates once they return to Ohio.
“I like hanging out with the guys and getting closer together,” Stapleton said. “We’ve all really became a team during this trip. And we’ve played some really good competition. When we get home, we’re going to jump on the ball a lot more than we have in the (recent) past. It’s made us a better team.”
Brandon Triplett, aka Panther, OF/PR
Exactly the opposite of Stapleton would be Brandon Triplett — or “Panther,” as his teammates call him.
The name derives from his high school days at Southeastern. Triplett both likes the nickname “Panther” and runs like the feline on the base paths.
Triplett, who is tall and lanky, uses his long strides to leg out infield hits and be a menace on the base paths. During one of Post 757’s contests in Georgetown, South Carolina, this past week, Triplett went through a sequence of hustling out an infield hit and stealing second and third base before crossing the plate on an errant throw.
“I feel most confident on the base paths, more than at the plate or in the field,” Triplett said. “I know that I have the speed to cause problems and get back when need be or run out a base hit. I just try to hit line drives and swing at pitches in the strike zone.”
While his goal is a line drive, many times, it doesn’t even take that for Triplett to reach base. And while he might be the fastest player on the roster, his bat has been hot as of late.
In the final two games of the ‘Southern Swing,” Triplett went 3-4 with a double, three stolen bases and an RBI.
“I was a freshman in high school, and Cody (Hendershot) asked me to come play,” Triplett said. “I tried out, decided to play, and I think it’s been a good choice.”
Austin Long, aka Wiz, OF/C
Wherever Triplett was during the team’s stay in the Carolinas, you could usually find Austin Long.
The two had never hung out until this past week but hit it off from day one on the “Southern Swing.”
“On trips like this, everyone goes out and does things that they want to do in their free time,” Long said. “Brandon and I seemed to like some of the same things and were able to do a lot of cool things together. Not everybody has to do the same thing, and I think Brandon and I are examples of that.”
As for Long’s nickname “Whiz,” the origin is still up for debate.
“I don’t know where it comes from,” Long said. “Everybody at my school calls me that, but I have no idea where I got it from. I think it’s because I fell through the cracks a bit at Huntington. I don’t listen to country music like most of my classmates do from there. I like to do things differently. So maybe that has something to do with it.”
“Whiz” might do things a little unorthodox, but either way, the job at hand gets completed.
“Being able to play baseball in different places and seeing all of the different fields and the different levels of talent has been really cool,” Long said. “It’s a good thing I can get out here and see better pitching and better competition. That’s improved me as a ballplayer.”
Leo Woods, aka Woody, IF/PH
It’s not hard to figure out where Leo Woods’ nickname comes from.
Simply called “Woody” by most of his teammates, there’s also a respect level for the frequently used third baseman as well.
Woods has been a mainstay inside the Colts’ lineup and continues to be one the team’s hotter hitters. Don’t let his short, stocky frame fool you. When he gets a hold of the ball, it can travel a long way.
“You see better pitchers at this level of baseball,” Woods said. “I just go up there, relax and confident in myself. If I can get contact, the ball will go. If the pitcher makes a mistake, it will fall in your favor.”
“Woody” is one of the more popular players on the team, as many of his teammates like to hang out wherever he goes.
“It’s a lot of fun being down here with these guys,” Woods said. “This brings a team closer. We’ve been out on the beach, at putt-putt golf courses, out to eat together, etc. And it’s been a lot of fun. When we get back home, we’re going to win. I expect that.
“This trip has made us better. While other teams back home are sitting on their butts, we’re out here playing ball and getting better.”