HANOVER, N.H.—Like all great protagonists, or at least all the interesting ones, Harvard senior catcher Brian Lentz has had his share of controversy.
It should be ancient history at this point, and among the people who matter, it is. But then come those damn road games like this weekend’s at Dartmouth, and it all gets dredged up again—with lots of liberties taken.
During the Crimson’s series at Brown, there were not-so-subtle whispers. In Hanover, the crowd showed less restraint.
Dartmouth’s fans were merciless to most of Harvard’s players Saturday, with varying degrees of cleverness.
“Some of it was funny,” senior pitcher Kenon Ronz said.
But some of it wasn’t, including most of the snarls intended for Lentz. The catcalls rained down every time he stepped to the plate and at various points in between.
It was infuriating to watch. Something just seems awry with the universe when a scene like the one at Red Rolfe Field unfolds, when Lentz, blessed with the rarest degree of inborn ability, who at one point in his career was mentioned in the same breath as some of Major League Baseball’s brightest young stars, is made an object of ridicule by a gang of barely sober, snot-nosed schoolboys who don’t have half his brain or his maturity. It’s more than a little awkward to see the story of a figure as complicated and fascinating as Lentz reduced to a few punch lines about old skeletons in his closet.
Lentz, though, is no martyr. After missing two full seasons for off-field reasons, he expects some ribbing—even enjoys it.
“Honestly, I don’t mind heckling. I think its funny,” Lentz said. “I think its part of the game.”
But there is a limit. And it was crossed Saturday, when the entire Dartmouth side—including parents with young children—chuckled as a few boorish drunks pushed past the boundaries of good taste.
“It’s one thing when a guy says, ‘Hey Lentz, wanna go have for a couple beers after the game?’,” Lentz says. “I got in a little trouble my freshman year—that’s fine.
“But when they say some other things that are gross and just untrue, its not good heckling. It’s just really offensive. It shows a lack of respect for the game and for the people playing it, their own team included. If I was an administrator at Dartmouth and I was there [Saturday], I think I would be talking to a few of those guys because they certainly didn’t represent the school well.”
Harvard, on the other hand, couldn’t have been better represented by Lentz, who you might say underwent a catharsis of sorts this weekend.
Once the series moved to O’Donnell Field yesterday, it was Lentz inflicting torture with every at-bat. For every cheap one-liner Saturday, there was a line drive yesterday. Five, in fact. To go along with four runs and two RBI.
Harvard was the champion. Lentz was the star. Justice was served.
“Yesterday the Dartmouth crowd was all over our players, in particular Lentz,” Harvard coach Joe Walsh said. “I was real happy for him that he had a pretty good day at the plate and he shut down their running game pretty well.”
Before the game had ended, but with the Crimson ahead, a few loud Harvard fans stumbled over to the bleachers and fired some barbs at a deflated Dartmouth team. When they started getting just a little too rowdy, Craig Lentz—father of the Harvard catcher and the team’s unofficial cinematographer—intervened in a way that, sadly, no one from Dartmouth felt compelled to Saturday.
“You weren’t there yesterday,” the elder Lentz said, politely informing them of how Dartmouth had behaved and how Harvard wouldn’t.
“We’ll win with class,” he said.
That’s just what his son did. Later, after Harvard’s celebration had moved to the locker room and Dartmouth’s players started to file onto their bus, Lentz lingered outside Dillon Field House, the duffel bag slung over his shoulder the only baggage weighing on him. Only when pressed did he confess to some satisfaction over getting the better of Dartmouth.
At that point, his grin was a mile wide. On a weekend when more than one too many jokes were made at Lentz’s expense, the last laugh literally belonged to him.
—Staff writer Brian E. Fallon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.