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Salt Lake Bees take time and have pride in cheering for their alma maters

Bees' Matt Thaiss talks with media members as the Salt Lake Bees hold their media day at Smith's Ballpark on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.
Bees' Matt Thaiss talks with media members as the Salt Lake Bees hold their media day at Smiths Ballpark on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Thaiss is a Virginia alum, and though the Cavaliers didn't advance to the NCAA baseball tournament this year, he has bragging rights from Virginia winning the men's basketball national championship this year.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Spend any time around the Salt Lake Bees and it becomes clear rather quickly that they like to have fun.

That fun can rear its head in many ways, but it is especially the case in regards to college athletics — school pride if you will.

Whether it be friendly ribbing, interesting bets and the like, the Bees care what happens at their former schools, and they have some fun with it.

Take Georgia Tech alums Zac Ryan and Luke Bard.

The relief pitchers are a part of probably the most heated rivalry on the team, with former Georgia Bulldog Jared Walsh.

Bard and Ryan watched the Yellow Jackets all season long, particularly when the played the Bulldogs.

“(Walsh) and I would have friendly wagers on those games,” Bard said. “Tech beat 'em two out of three this year. We followed those games closely.”

The pitchers followed the Yellow Jackets' run to the NCAA regionals, where Georgia Tech ultimately fell short. However, both are optimistic about their alma mater’s future.

“We followed along with the regional games and unfortunately they lost,” Bard said. “They had a great year and sometimes that is the way it goes.”

“James Ramsey is their coach now and I played with him in the minor leagues,” Ryan added. “I’ve been keeping up with him and it sounds like they are going in the right direction.”

Ryan has a bit of a rivalry all to himself on the team, with Virginia alum Matt Thaiss.

The duo played against one another multiple times in school, so there is a little bit ribbing between them.

“There is a little with me and Thaiss just ‘cause we played against each other for three years,” Ryan said.

The reliever enjoys the fun of college rivalries, but they take a back seat when it comes to his Bees’ teammates, though.

“We have fun with rivalries in college and keeping up with the game, but now we just try to look towards the future. We are teammates now.”

That didn’t stop Thaiss, or fellow UVA alum Jarrett Parker, from having a little bit of fun during March Madness this year, however.

While Virginia’s baseball team wasn’t all that great — the Cavaliers finished 32-24 — the basketball team won the national championship and the former Cavaliers relished in their school’s success.

“I was talking big time,” said Parker. “I think Mike Trout still owes me some cash. That was really fun to be a part of.”

“When we were playing for the national championship in basketball we had a pitcher with us who went to Texas Tech, so we were on the flight together leaving Albuquerque and we were watching it and it was a good time,” Thaiss added. “He was supposed to get his toenails painted blue and orange (when Virginia won), but he never followed through on that.”

When it comes to the College World Series, no Bee can really follow through with any sort of trash talk this year.

Only three players had their alma mater qualify for the postseason this year, Bard, Ryan and Stony Brook alum Nick Tropeano, and both schools were ousted fairly easily in the regionals.

There is always next year, though, and every year after that.

“Definitely,” said Parker. “If (UVA) was in the College World Series and we were playing another team that a buddy went to, we’d be going back and forth, for sure. It is fun. It is a good time.”