PALM BAY — Just a second before the broadcast went live, Rob Querry turned to his wife, Julia, and asked, “You did set the DVR, right?”
Rob, the Heritage High baseball coach who told his players they could name the next Querry child for 14 wins, joined Julia, 4-year-old son Brady and the entire Panthers team and coaching staff early Saturday for a live interview on NBC’s “Today” show.
The program and the name-my-baby phenomenon went viral after FLORIDA TODAY’s first story announcing the challenge the second-year Heritage coach had given his players.
The Panthers won their 13th game last week and can go for the guarantee of the school’s first winning season on Monday at 6 p.m. when they host cross-town rival Bayside High. Heritage opened in 2009 but has yet to win more games than it loses in a single baseball season.
That all could change, since the Panthers — and the Twitterverse, for that matter — embraced their coach’s baby moniker challenge. They have fans all over social media and national news outlets rooting for “little Benny Smalls.”
TV personality Lisa Lampkin and an NBC crew from Orlando were on hand to feed the video and the words of the Querrys and players back to New York for a live interview beginning at 8:07 a.m. In addition to Rob and Julia, seniors Joe Nelm and Christian Grubb were fitted with earpieces and answered questions over the air.
The teens, who were super energetic for 6:45 a.m. on a Saturday, showed their team spirit and mugged for the cameras. They kept checking their cell phones for social updates.
Despite having played baseball in front of crowds for years, Nelm fidgeted a bit before the cameras went live.
“I was nervous being on TV for my first time. I tried to stay calm, take deep breaths,” he said. “It was definitely a cool experience, something I’ll never forget.”
The story has gotten attention nationwide and in at least one British newspaper. The Panthers collectively chose the name Benjamin Smalls Querry, and their goal of 14 wins is in reach with six games to play in the regular season.
Early Saturday, there was one main question coming from the TV studio in New York: is expectant mom Julia, due in mid-September, open to naming her son after two characters in the baseball movie “The Sandlot”?
“She’s warming up to Benjamin,” Rob Querry said. “Smalls, we’re still working on.”
Lampkin said she and a TV crew will be back to Brevard on Monday night to check in with Heritage and Bayside. During Saturday’s taping, she filmed an extra sit-down segment with Rob and Julia that should air Monday on the “Today” show.
Check back for updates.
McCallum is FLORIDA TODAY‘s high school sports reporter.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.