Softball

Syracuse softball bonds over unofficial Gnome mascot

Eddie Natal | Staff Photographer

Syracuse has bonded as a team through its joke about the gnome.

Mike Bosch scanned the room in a postgame team meeting and noticed one of his players missing.

“Where’s Baylee?” Syracuse’s head coach asked.

Junior right-hander Baylee Douglass raised her hand, right at Bosch’s feet.

“You’re like a little gnome,” the coach said looking down in Douglass’ direction. “I just can’t see you.”

The room erupted with laughter.

For Douglass, it was a surprising start to an important year. She’d transferred from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville into one of softball’s best conferences, and this was her chance to prove she belonged on a team like Syracuse (3-2). Yet a season filled with promise began with a joke that became much more.

“It’s probably my fault,” Bosch laughed. “You need some things along the way to keep you light and humorous, and this was one of those things.”

The gnome joke might have ended with Bosch’s comment, if the team didn’t have its Secret Santa exchange shortly thereafter.

Being one of the team’s new kids, Douglass took it upon herself to make it easy on the person tasked with buying her gift. She messaged her teammates a single picture with the caption, “This is the only thing I want.”

In early December, Douglass unwrapped her gift from freshman pitcher Alexa Romero. It was a small gnome figurine wearing an orange pointed hat with a block blue “S,” orange shoes and an orange T-shirt emblazoned with the word “’Cuse.” In the following days, the gnome received a name, “Gnate,” opened accounts on Twitter and Instagram and more or less became a part of the team.

Gnate’s activities include, but are not limited to, lifting weights, judging foot-races, taping ankles, distributing water, hawking merchandise and watching practice from a seat on an upside-down softball bucket. His role extends beyond the field, too. Gnate goes to class with Douglass, live-tweets NFL playoff games and even sent a care package including a replica gnome (“my cousin”) to fellow transfer teammate Bryce Holmgren’s mother. This work, the gnome’s social media account vented, has gone unnoticed as he has not been requested for an interview from local media.

Like any aggrieved athlete, he took to social media to push his own agenda, albeit with some puns and internet memes.

SU junior pitcher ace AnnaMarie Gatti fears she may have created a monster.

“I’m not a fan of the gnome,” Gatti said, laughing. “I bought the gnome (for Romero) for Secret Santa, but it’s only because (Douglass) wanted it so bad. I didn’t know the extent of what the gnome would do.”

The gnome has created mixed feelings among the rest of the team, but most view it as a humorous inside-joke. Some teammates, such as Gatti, think the gnome may cause a distraction because Douglass has insisted on bringing Gnate everywhere.

Gatti knows Gnate is supposed to bring good karma to the Orange. But the ever-worried right-hander says she may take action if Syracuse begins to lose with the gnome at the helm.

“If the gnome starts to bring any bad, we get some losses right off the bat, that gnome’s going to be gone and she won’t be able to find it,” Gatti said. “I’m alright with the gnome, for now … I don’t know, it kind of creeps me out.”

In the meantime, Syracuse assistant coach Kristyn Sandberg will continue running Gnate’s social media account. Because, for Douglass, the gnome helped the transfer find her niche without ever having stepped inside the circle.

“They always pick on the new girl,” Douglass laughed. “Well, the new girl who carries around a gnome.”

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