Meet Ralph the snake, Blythewood baseball’s team mascot
Shortly after Blythewood High’s first game in the S.C. Diamond Invitational ended, players filed out of the dugout with bats, baseballs and the rest of the team’s equipment in hand.
Senior Zach Bailes and junior Brady Beasley carried one other important thing. The two players had the glass cage that housed Ralph, a ball python snake and the team’s unofficial mascot.
Bailes and other Bengals players wanted a team pet this season. After some research they went to PetSmart and bought Ralph several months ago. But because he is a cold-blooded snake, they waited for the weather to warm up and didn’t bring him to a game until this week’s tournament.
“We have a thing with animals and they keep coming back to us, so we were like, ‘We should really get a team pet,’ ” Bailes said. “We were actually going to go for a bengal, since we are the Bengals. But you need a permit and it is quite expensive, too. We couldn’t pull off the check for that one. We wanted a terrapin as well. That was John Lanier’s idea. We couldn’t get that one so we settled for this beautiful ball python. He is a great team pet and probably the friendliest snake in the world.”
Ball pythons get between three to five feet long, and Ralph is about 2½ feet long right now. Ralph stays at Bailes’ house for now, but he plans to pass duties on Beasley after graduation. Then Beasley will pass down to the next class and Ralph can remain in the program.
Ralph gets fed once a week, Bailes said. Ralph sits in the in the corner of the dugout with his cage plugged in. His cage has a baseball in it and the players take him out when someone hits a homer. That happened to be Landon Lucas on Wednesday he belted a solo homer against Wren.
After the game, Blythewood fans came up to Bailes, wanting to pet and hold Ralph.
“He loves the popularity,” Bailes said. “We feed off his energy. You hit a bomb, you hold Ralph. That is the rules.”
Not all of the players want to pet Ralph. Blythewood coach Banks Faulkner had his doubts on holding him but changed his mind after seeing him at practice Tuesday.
“I have never been a huge snake fan, but I picked him up and petted him. He is a friendly guy,” said Faulkner, who is in third year at Blythewood. “If it helps them play well, I am all for it. This is a different group and they have been able to handle that. When you got a mature team, you can have some fun with them.
“We got a group that is fun loving and carefree that likes stuff like that. If you play hard and take care of business, you can have fun playing his game.”
The Bengals have had plenty of fun this season. Blythewood is 19-7 after going 2-2 in the S.C. Diamond Invitational.
Blythewood, which was ranked as high as No. 2 in the S.C. Baseball Coaches Poll, won the Region 4-5A championship and begins the playoffs Tuesday at home against Byrnes.
“We are a lot tougher than we were at the start of the year and were able to withstand things that hadn’t gone our way. And we were able to bounce back,” Faulkner said. “I think we are playing our best baseball at the right time and we will be able to be here a lot, which is big.”
And Ralph will be along for the Bengals’ postseason’ ride.
“He is just chilling and living the life,” Bailes said.