Wednesday’s storm-shortened Battery training session featured a surprise performance by a tenacious defender who quite literally let the air out of the ball.
At around 10:30 a.m., during a passing drill on the Blackbaud Stadium practice field, an errant ball wound up in the facility’s gator pond. The current residents — believed to be an adult male, an adult female, a smaller juvenile and a gaggle of foot-long young — typically ignore these incursions. But this time the patriarch took an interest, swam off the bank and took matters into his own… jaws.
Balls wind up in the pond in every practice session, but Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser said this is only about the third time this as happened during his lengthy tenure on Daniel Island. His theory: With lots of baby gators swimming around, their protective dad saw the ball as more of a threat than usual.
There were actually two balls in the pond when the male took this one up on the bank, but the male gave this one a rough go. After biting it, he took it up on the far bank, where it took him about 10 minutes of periodically slamming his lower jaw on the dirt to finally puncture the ball.
Club President Andrew Bell’s response: “That’s $230!” Because apparently that’s what one of these things costs.
The Battery’s resident alligators have become something of a North American soccer legend, largely because MLS teams that come to the Carolina Challenge Cup often practice on the field (which has an alligator warning sign on the gate), and many of their players have never seen a gator up close before. Battery players are more comfortable around the reptiles — for the most part — but “ball duty” remains a sometimes nerve-wracking rookie job.
This year’s CCC produced probably the best Photoshopped Battery gator photo of all time, when someone from Houston Dynamo decided to work star midfielder Brad Davis into the scene.
TOP IMAGE: An adult gator collects an official USL PRO soccer ball Wednesday at Blackbaud Stadium. Dan Conover photos.