BOISE — The next time you go to a Boise Hawks game, watch Shawon Dunston Jr. before he enters the batter's box.
He uses the end of his bat to seemingly scribble in the dirt. Turns out he's not scribbling, though.
"It's a 'D' for Dunston," the outfielder said. "I do it for my parents, my sisters and my grandfather just passed away in January, so he knows I'm with him every at-bat I have. I was going to put my whole family and their initials, but it made it a little shorter to just put 'D'."
Call it superstition, or call it ritual. No other sport seems to lend itself to routine like baseball does.
"We're creatures of habit," Hawks utility player David Bote said. "You've got to do the same thing over and over again, so you know what's coming next. It gets our mind right."
Even coaches follow suit. Boise manager Gary Van Tol shines his shoes at the same time and the same way before each game.
"This game is so routine-oriented," Van Tol said. "It's such a mental game. You play every day. You never know what day it is, but you play every day. So it's kind of like 'Groundhog Day' every day."
Sometimes the routine isn't so much about what players are doing as much as when they do it.
Sunday's starter, James Pugliese, has a regimented pregame routine. Before every home game, he begins his practice throws at 6:52. Not 6:51. Not 6:53.
"That's when I get on the mound," he said matter-of-factly.
Danny Lockhart taps on the plate before each plate appearance.
"I go left, right, then across and back," the infielder said. "I make a cross across the plate. I'm a Christian, and that's just something I do."
Jose Dore, meanwhile, swishes his feet left and right as he steps into the batter's box.
"I draw my lines where I need to put them. It's kind of a ritual. It's complicated, but it helps me. Every time I take a pitch I know where I'm at. I look down and regroup. That's when I focus in again and get ready for the next pitch."
Hey, whatever works. That philosophy served batting coach and longtime major leaguer Bill Buckner well during his playing days.
"When things are going good, you want to keep doing the same thing every day," Buckner said. "Back in my day, it was wearing the same socks and the same underwear."
And that worked for him?
"Yeah," he said. "Definitely."
Chris Langrill: 377-6424