Bly binds team together with community philosphy
Charlie Mackenzie | Staff Writer
To Mason baseball, 45040 is more than just a zip code.
The program’s mantra can be seen everywhere – hung proudly in front of the baseball field, on the team’s shirts, and hashtagged on Twitter. Started originally as a hashtag, 45040 was intended to cultivate a homegrown mentality across the program.
Over the past ten years, a Catholic school has won the Division I baseball state championship six times. Moeller has won three of those titles.
These schools draw in athletes from many zip codes, and head coach Curt Bly said that the hashtag originated as a way to show his players that they can compete against any school no matter where their athletes come from.
“Private schools are dependent upon drawing from multiple communities,” Bly said. “Our mentality when it comes to our school, our community, and our baseball program is that we aren’t going to make an excuse about competing against a great program regardless on how their players are gathered. We’re excited about having the opportunity to compete against the best teams we can. The 45040 mentality is more about being proud of who we are and believing that with the right work ethic and commitment we have all we need to compete in the framework of our community.”
Moeller ended the Comet’s season in 2014 and 2015 after beating them both years in the regional final.
Bly said that his program can compete with teams that pull from multiple zip codes such as Moeller, but must win the big games they play against them.
“Moeller has been the measuring stick of Division I baseball in Southwest Ohio,” Bly said. “They have been very successful and Coach Held has a great program. I think that to get to where we want to be as a program that is who we have to compete with and that is who we have to beat. I’m not going to say we are on level playing ground, but it’s about playing on the field, and in recent years, we’ve met in the regional final and in close games they’ve bested us both times. Do I think we can compete with them? Absolutely. But you need to go out and win those games before you say you’re on equal playing ground.”
Senior outfielder DJ Fluker said that originally the team did not think much about that mantra, but Bly showed his players the meaning of the zip code.
“At first everyone thought it was goofy because we had our area code on our shirts,” Fluker said. “People would make jokes like they knew where to return us. But when Coach Bly talks about it it makes you think about who we play for and what we play for and how we represent our city.”
Bly said that the hashtag is an attempt to stop his team from making the excuse that Catholic schools’ teams represent more than one zip code.
“I’ve heard plenty of people say it is a way of softening defeats from private schools,” Bly said. “It’s almost like an excuse. In order to be champions and to reach the pinnacle of your own potential whether it be as individuals or as a team, you have to take all excuses and push them to the side. 45040 is our zip code and the idea is that we are proud of who we are and we are good enough with the people that we have that we don’t need anybody else. It is in no way a negative comment toward any other program; it is more about defeating that excuse.”
In middle school, Mason baseball players are given the decision to stay with the green and white or to enroll at a private school. Bly said that the 45040 mentality is also an effort to get his middle school prospects excited about representing the Comets.
“We have great baseball in our area and that we have great summer programs, both within the city and just in general in Southwest Ohio,” Bly said. “There is also high interest in baseball. It is our job to cultivate those relationships with the younger kids through our camps and other things that we do. Hopefully we can inspire them to dream about wearing kelly green one day and not any other color. We talk about that with our middle school kids. We aren’t trying to convince you to become a Comet: you already are one.”
Bly schedules private school powerhouses even with the rigorous Greater Miami Conference (GMC) schedule. Bly said that he wants his team to play the best of the best.
“It prepares our players for the tournament,” Bly said. “We have a grind of a league. Our league schedule is really tough and there may be some wisdom in trying to schedule down a little in the non-league because the league is so tough, but my mentality is that you have to play the best if you want to improve and be the best. I think win or lose, going against teams like (Moeller) consistently makes you better. It’s not about proving anything. It’s about trying to get better.’’
Bly would like to see all sports adopting the 45040 mentality.
“45040 is all we need,” Bly said. “We don’t need any more zip codes. That’s the reason we hashtag it all over the place. I don’t see it just as a baseball thing. To me it’s our community and it’s our school. I’d like to see all of our sports hash tagging that, because that’s who we all are, not just baseball.”