Even from six hundred miles up the Eastern seaboard, Colin Donnelly has heard enough about The Jungle to lob a peremptory shot across the bow this week.
Donnelly, the 6-1 Quinnipiac pitcher who won the game that led his team to the MAAC Championship on Sunday, took to Twitter to proclaim, “I AM THE JUNGLE,” complete with a pro wrestler-style pose. In tagging two Jungle accounts, Donnelly made sure that he will not go unnoticed in Clark-LeClair Stadium this weekend.
— Colin Donnelly (@ColinDonnelly25) May 28, 2019
The occupants of the Jungle not only warned him of the good-natured abuse that was coming his way, they also told him to invite his parents to come join them in the outfield.
“We’ll give you hell on the mound, but we’ll shake your hand, feed you after,” replied the ECU LF Megaphones handle.
When his tribe’s reputation precedes it by two days and hundreds of miles, Brian Dilday can only marvel at how far the megaphone crew at the left field fence has come since 2005, when he helped celebrate the opening of Clark-LeClair by showing up with one megaphone, borrowed from his wife Koryn.
Dilday has been attending every baseball game he can make since he enrolled at ECU in 1991, but the new stadium seemed to call for an elevated level of commitment and creativity. Koryn ran a cheerleading business, and someone had given her a gift of a Pirate megaphone. On a whim, Dilday brought it with him into the new Jungle on opening day that year.
“I figured if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it the right way and have a good time doing it,” he said, deftly summarizing the perspective on life that makes him such a lightning rod during Pirates games.
He was originally planning just to use the megaphone for the first game, but some of the players on the squad — Darryl and Trevor Lawhorn and Mark Minicozzi — told him that the megaphone had to be a permanent tradition.
For the next two years or so it was, but it was a tradition limited to Dilday.
Until ECU traveled to Raleigh to play N.C. State, and Dilday thought it would be a good idea to bring his amplification implement on the road. When he got to the ticket gate at Doak Field, the lady working there said, “I don’t think you can bring that in,” but Dilday talked fast, telling her that he had talked to the athletic director about it. (He didn’t feel the need to mention that it was East Carolina AD Terry Holland he had talked to about the megaphone, not N.C. State’s Lee Fowler.)
What happened during that game is part of Jungle lore. ECU took a lead, and Dilday optimized his megaphone to make sure every Wolfpack fan knew it. A sheriff’s deputy, working security at the game, told him he couldn’t use it, so he put it away — until he saw an N.C. State fan’s homemade sign that disparaged ECU and Pirate fans.
Ever one to defend his team, Dilday started hollering into the cone again, prompting the deputy to come back and take his megaphone away until the end of the game. Dilday didn’t dispute the officer’s decision, but he did insist that the Wolfpack fan also had to take her sign down.
Word got out quickly among the Pirate Nation and the Jungle faithful, and two days later Dilday received a large box on his doorstep. Inside the box were six new megaphones, and with them was a note from an anonymous Pirate Club member that said, “Any time you get your megaphone taken, we’ll keep sending you more.”
Dilday gave the new megaphones away to his most vocal friends, and today the Jungle ribs opposing left fielders with more creativity and volume than any college fans in the country.
In preparation for the opening games on Friday, Dilday, a physical education teacher at Wahl-Coates School, has been working hard to stay hydrated and save his voice as much as possible. A couple of the younger members of the Jungle tribe have taken on the task of researching the left fielders for N.C. State, Campbell and Quinnipiac, in order to better prepare the megaphone crew to send plenty of persistent insults and chatter their way.
They have lots of junior Jungle members out there too, standing on the wooden benches built just to give them a view over the fence, so Dilday and his friends try to keep their remarks free of vulgarity and disrespect.
Humor, and baseball movie quotes, are welcome.
They call pitchers “meat,” inspired by Bull Durham. (Donnelly should be prepared for his new nickname.) They have also featured lines from “Field of Dreams,” “For the Love of the Game,” “Major League,” and others.
Donnelly will undoubtedly be one of many baseball players who will be hearing “Two up, two down,” and “Take her out, leave her in!” in his dreams after a weekend being backed up by the Jungle dwellers.