Gerry Salisbury is Ohio’s ace.
Salisbury, a fifth-year senior, has climbed the pitching ladder and battled through injuries to become Ohio’s go-to starting pitcher.
But pitchers don’t throw every day, and when Salisbury has off days, or any free time in general, he is more than likely sitting in front of a television with a PlayStation 4 controller in his hand, playing Fortnite.
Fortnite, the battle royale, Hunger Games-like game that has taken over college dorm rooms all over the country, has also taken over the Ohio baseball program. It’s not just the players, either. They’ve convinced the coaches to join them.
“It’s kind of turned into a whole thing,” Salisbury said. “Coach (Rob) Smith went and bought a (PlayStation 4), and he joins in on games occasionally.”
They don’t just play solo rounds, in which it is every player for themselves. Salisbury, along with his teammates and coaches, play on teams together, trying to be the last four-man team alive in the game of up to 25 teams.
Smith is a good team player. He collects resources and revives people. If he gets the choice of landing spots for beginning the game, he chooses Snobby Shores, an area that not many players start from. It’s his best method for surviving and finding weapons without dying.
Being a team player that helps out is a good thing as the coach of the Bobcats, but in Fortnite, not so much. Smith can’t escape the facts: He’s not very good.
“I’m going to no comment that one,” Salisbury said when asked about Smith’s ability.
Pitching coach Ryne Romick is a video game fan, but he wasn’t sold on the Fortnite craze. It took some convincing, but the pitchers finally had their way, and Romick downloaded the game. It wasn’t a bad decision, but there's no turning back now. Romick is hooked.
Romick’s main goal is simple: Don’t start at overpopulated spots and get wins. That’s easier said than done, yes. But when the baseball players, along with their coaches, are in a squads match, wins add up.
Though they win at Fortnite, they’re all quick to trash talk teammates and coaches about who’s better, even on the same squad.
“Gerry Salisbury is a terrible shot,” Romick said. “You kind of have to pick him up a lot. You’ve got to revive him. (Nick) Bredeson’s terrible, and coach Smith — one of the worst players you’ve ever played with.”
The video game has become popular among a majority of the team. And while there is no problem with culture in the Ohio baseball team, Fortnite is another way for the players — and coaches — to bond with one other, bringing a team that is close even closer as a group.
“There are probably like 70 percent of our guys playing,” Romick said. “It’s pretty fun because most of the team knows what’s going on and coach Smith will — he’s pretty with it, so he’ll make some funny Fortnite comments every once in a while.”
The coaches trust the players to make good decisions all the time, but when they’re playing Fortnite with the players, they know what’s going on. They become all the more relatable to their team.
As Ohio inches toward Mid-American Conference play, the goals of this season are obtainable. Baseball is the main priority, but having a game like Fortnite is a stress reliever for the program. It has become a staple.
And though some players and coaches have differing strategies, they can all agree on one thing: Smith is bad. He just wants to survive long enough to enjoy playing.
“A solo win for me is to actually be in the game for five minutes,” Smith said. “I’m still learning the game.”