What's in a Name? Stuffed Animals, Songs Titles, Television Shows and Movies All Have Been the Source of Some Pretty Peculiar Nicknames for Tri-Cities Softball Players

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Byline: Darryl Mellema Daily Herald Correspondent

Costello: So you go ahead and tell me some of their names.

Abbott: You know sometimes nowadays they give ballplayers peculiar names.

Costello: You mean funny names.

Abbott: Nicknames, pet names, like Dizzy Dean ...

Costello: His brother Daffy ...

Abbott: Daffy Dean ...

Costello: And their cousin!

Abbott: Who's that?

Costello: Goofy!

Abbott: Goofy, huh? Now let's see. We have on the bags - Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third.

It's been more than 60 years since Abbott and Costello made "Who's on First" a staple of comedy lore.

One thing's still true: They still give players peculiar, funny or pet names. In other words the art of the nickname is alive and well.

On area softball diamonds this spring, you can watch "Baby Shark" pitch, "Coop" play first base, "Toad" play in the outfield, "Peaches" play second base, "Moo" catch and "Cubby" play short.

Just about everyone, it seems, has some form of nickname.

"There seems to be more nicknames on the baseball and softball side," Geneva softball coach Greg Dierks said. "There's more talking time. There's more chatter between pitches. From all that constant talking, the nicknames just come out."

"Baby Shark", for example, in real life is Batavia's Petra Wade. The nickname comes from a preschool song titled, you guessed it, "Baby Shark."

"I taught it to everyone on the bus," said Wade, a junior. "It was my freshman year. It stuck. People call me 'Baby Shark' on and off the field. People used to call me 'The Wad.' I think I like 'Baby Shark' better."

Nicknames are commonplace with the Bulldogs.

"Everyone's got one," Wade said. "It keeps us loose."

"There's an endless supply," Schmitz said. "You should see our lineup board before a game. Some of them are names you wouldn't want to print, but everyone has one or more."

Schmitz writes the lineup on that board before the game, using players' real last names. The team usually gets to that board before game time and edits those last names, inserting each player's nickname.

At Kaneland, coach Dennis Hansen would be the one to write the nicknames instead of the real last names because he comes up with most of those nicknames.

"If a player's been in the program long enough, I'll come up with a nickname for them," Hansen said. "We had 11 seniors graduate last year, and I had nicknames for all of them. This year we're a younger group, and I haven't gotten to all of them yet."

Jessica Heimann carries one of the Knights' more colorful nicknames. She is known as "Coop." Any fan of the old ABC television series "The Wonder Years" or actress Danica McKellar's character could see why.

"I remember tryouts last year," Heimann said. "They were talking about how I looked like Winnie Cooper. One time after a good hit, (Hansen) called out to me, 'Way to go, Coop.' I don't think he planned it. But all the other girls started calling me by that name."

Heimann, who had previously been known as "The Heimannator," was aware of the resemblance, though she never thought it would become a nickname.

"I watched 'The Wonder Years' my whole childhood," Heimann said.

Among other nicknames at Kaneland are outfielder Natalie Ott, who's known as "Nott," and catcher Kiara Barrett, who goes by "Key." Hansen, always original, calls Barrett "Kiwi."

"That's kind of how he has always been," Heimann said. "He kind of shortens things or makes them interesting."

St. Charles North has a large collection of interesting nicknames. Among the best of the collection, Jen Stephens is "Cubby" and catcher Melissa Kiley is "Moo", among others.

"We have three Melissas on the team," Kiley said. …