With the MIAC conference title on the line last weekend, Drake Siens put an emphatic blast on a breakout regular season for the Gustavus baseball team.
The junior, a St. Michael-Albertville graduate from Rogers, had just smashed a home run off St. Olaf pitcher Owen Manning in the third inning, upping his batting average to .394. Then he turned toward his dugout and created a viral sensation.
"He hit about a 500-foot home run, just a bomb," Gustavus coach Brad Baker recalled. "The next thing I know, I see this bat come flying."
CJ Siewert, the Gustavus sports information director, was doing the play-by-play. He said he didn't get a great look at the bat flip in real time, which made his call all the better.
"The home plate umpire, it looks like, has ejected Drake Siens for the bat flip," Siewert says on the broadcast before a slight pause and adding, "which was minor, to say the least."
Three days later, Siewert could laugh when he said, "Once you see the replay it's like, 'He did kind of launch it.' "
The launch was big enough that Jomboy Media posted the clip to its 300,000-plus followers on Twitter.
Baker, a Gustavus graduate who was drafted by the Twins in 1980, coached the Gusties for one season in 1981 before leaving to raise a family and work in investment banking. 35 years later he took over the program again and has been the coach since 2016.
He had never been ejected until that moment.
"I'm 65-years-old and raised my family and I've always said, you can do whatever you want to me but don't do it to my kids. I can handle it. But don't do it to my kids," Baker said. "I treat my ballplayers like they're my guys."
That felt especially true for Siens, who Baker described as soft spoken, thoughtful and not the kind of player interested in showing up his opponents.
"I told the umpire, 'If you're going to eject him, you're going to have to eject me, too,' " Baker said. "And he didn't have any problem with that."
The moment took on a life of its own for Gustavus, which slightly discolored a weekend where they put the finishing touches on a championship season with Siens as one of their core leaders. His batting average ranked ninth in the MIAC while his seven homers were tied for second. The team finished 26-12 overall and won the MIAC title with a 16-4 conference record.
"All we want to do is go play in the playoffs and do what we do," Baker said. "We have a really good baseball team and really good kids."
Siens will have to sit out the first game on Thursday when Gustavus faces Bethel.
"We'll get him back on Friday," Baker said. "Life goes on."
After he was ejected alongside his junior infielder, Baker got a text message from Siens, apologizing for his bat toss and thanking his coach for having his back with the umpires.
There was a sense that, given time, the story will take on its proper weight — a booming homer, a surge of energy and an epic flip from a player lost in the moment of chasing a championship.
"The St. Olaf third baseman was there and I guess he looks into our dugout and it was the best line ever," Baker recalled. "He said, 'If I had hit a ball that far, I would have thrown my bat, too.' "