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CHAIN REACTION: How a ‘funny joke’ and a chain has made Alcovy baseball better
Reece Payne (left) and Cooper Duncan are among Alcovy's RBI leaders this season. To celebrate each run batted in, the Tigers use their "RBI Chain" (pictured above). - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

COVINGTON, Ga. — In Week 0 of the 2017 college football season, the Miami Hurricanes debuted the “turnover chain” as a way of celebrating its defensive unit making big plays. Since then, other iterations have spread across the college football landscape in forms of shoulder pads and chainsaws. 

That phenomenon has now seeped into Alcovy baseball’s dugout. Instead of a "turnover chain," though, the Tigers have altered the idea and have an "RBI Chain."

Cooper Duncan — one of the RBI leaders in this year’s group — explained how the chain is much more than just a celebration. 

“Everyone is usually kind of spaced out when we’re batting and waiting on the pitch,” Duncan said. “Then, when the RBI is scored, everybody rushes to the front of the dugout and goes crazy.”   

The chain is gold with a tiger face attached to it. Every time a player bats a runner in to score, the player puts it on upon their return to the dugout.  

When the player puts the chain on, his teammates swarm him, jump up and down and celebrate the occasion. 

Reece Payne said the idea was hatched before the 2023 season even began. 

“We came together and thought, ‘We should order a chain,’” Payne said. “Coach Chris Salmon ordered it off of Amazon. It started as a funny joke, but now it’s our ‘RBI Chain.’” 

The RBI Chain has seemingly been a mainstay for half of the players on the Tigers' roster. 

Payne, Rodgis Ponder Jr. and CJ Salmon each have a team-high 18 RBIs followed by Duncan and Parker Gassman with 17 and Connor Merritt’s 16. Hunter Parker has recorded 14 RBIs as well. 

Each player's contributions have helped Alcovy earn a 15-8 overall record with a 7-3 mark in Region 3-AAAAAA, good enough for third place in the standings. 

Duncan stressed how the optimistic vibe floating around the club because of the “RBI Chain” has made a huge difference. 

“We’re a lot more positive this season,” Duncan said. “We just have a lot more positive energy going around at practice and in the games. We’re just having a good time is all.” 

That positive energy has boosted the Tigers from last season’s finish.

In 2022, Alcovy only accumulated eight overall wins and four region wins. The Tigers did, however, reset the history books by ending a nine-year postseason drought. 

Punching the program’s first playoff ticket since 2013 helped fuel the Tigers’ aspirations for this year. They didn’t want to become satisfied and complacent, hence the desire to take things an extra step this season. 

Therefore, Alcovy set forth a few goals.

For starters, the Tigers want to finish with a record above .500. Next, their aim is to return to the playoffs and, this time, advance past the first round. One goal that surpasses just this season, however, is to continue to build the foundation toward Alcovy baseball one day contending for and winning a state title. 

Again, the chain comes in handy. 

“It keeps us locked in the game instead of losing focus and getting off-task,” Payne said.

Payne and Duncan both recognized how nice it is to have the RBI Chain incorporated into the Tigers’ program. Nevertheless, it hasn’t stolen the players’ focus from the tasks at hand. 

Four games remain on Alcovy’s regular season schedule with all of them being against Region 3-AAAAAA opponents. Alcovy desires to win out and solidify its spot in the Class AAAAAA playoffs. 

Duncan was straightforward in his response when asked what it would take for him and his teammates to have a strong finish. 

“We need to have a great mental approach,” Duncan said. “We need to stay positive, have fun and play our game.”