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WVU Baseball Climbs Atop the Big 12 with Help from a Pretzel Chain



WVU baseball's Braden Barry celebrates with teammates

For the first time in more than five seasons, WVU Baseball developed a new home run celebration.

Since at least the 2019 season, Mountaineers hitters’ have put on a Viking helmet after going yard, but the helmet’s use died down over the past couple seasons. Their new tradition has carried them to lead the Big 12 conference standings as of the end of play on April 23.

Starting during the Mountaineers’ 12-3 win over Kansas on April 9, they replaced the helmet with a pretzel chain—along the lines of the Miami Hurricanes football team’s turnover chain, but made of the actual snack food. 

With the Mountaineers nursing a big lead (and nothing to do after starting the Friday game), pitcher Ben Hampton said he crafted the chain himself. He didn’t expect anything to come of it, and as of yet said he isn’t exploring any NIL opportunities with Auntie Anne’s, Rold Gold or Snyder’s. 

“We were up by a little bit, I started making it in about the fourth or fifth,” Hampton said. “I honestly got bored in the dugout, but it turned out to be our home run chain, and I think people kinda enjoy it.”

Trade Secrets

Hampton said he learned the secret to pretzel-chain making in his younger days, breaking the pretzels apart gently before repairing and linking them back together with spit. A pitcher’s dexterity surely helped with the unorthodox repair method. Hampton joked that as the snack food aged over the past two weeks, the pretzels’ bond has grown stronger thanks to another stomach-churning component.

“I think the mold might be holding it together at this point…it’s been two weeks now and it’s still there.” Hampton said. “It’s been the same exact pretzels the whole time, we just added one new one today. So far it’s holding up.”

The idea came to him as the Mountaineers sat amidst a shaky patch where they lost three of four games, their worst stretch of the season. 

Hampton recalled the pastime of his youth, seeing it as an excellent way to pacify the struggling team.

“I was kinda just eating a bag of pretzels, and it just kinda came to me that I should just start putting them together,” Hampton said. “I kinda just made it to make everyone laugh…[it] makes people relax a little bit, and when we have a home run it just adds a little extra fun to it.”

Hampton’s feat didn’t go unnoticed for long.

“Somebody said ‘hey, let’s make it into a full chain,’ and so I did,” Hampton said. “I had it made, and it was kinda just sitting there, and a couple minutes later, [left fielder] Landon [Wallace] hit that back side home run, and someone’s like ‘put it on him, put it on him!”

Close Calls

Somehow, the chain managed to survive the home run frenzied dugout. 

“I didn’t know if it was going to break at first,” Hampton said. “We put it on [Wallace], it stuck, and then he hit another one later that game, we put it back on and then Huss [first baseman Grant Hussey] hit one, and it was sticking.”
The pretzel chain is off to a roaring start, and it’s already survived a pair of close calls.

Relief pitcher Carlson Reed said after the Mountaineers’ series opening 5-4 win against TCU that he wanted to eat the pretzels when he saw them in the dugout. He heads out to the bullpen during the middle innings, so he didn’t get a chance to see how Hampton made the pretzel chain.

“I’ve gotta go in the locker room and tell him how I actually made it so he’s not taking any bites of it,” Hampton said.

The chain broke during the next game as the players jostled it around in the dugout.

“It broke today on one of them: somebody was walking back with it, I think someone gave him a pat on the back and a pretzel broke,” Hampton said. “We had some emergency surgery mid-game and got it back together.”

While pretzels have a limited shelf life, the snack food is easy to obtain: who’s to say how long the impromptu tradition will last for. Since the Kansas game, the Mountaineers have climbed up to first place in the Big 12, after being picked to slot in towards the bottom of the conference before the season started.

The Mountaineers are an excellent team, of course…but perhaps the pretzels deserve their credit for the hot streak too.

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