‘Fur real’ – how an irate umpire connected three UT sports

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

A celebratory fur coat got banned last weekend at Tennessee baseball because of an irritable umpire, and another one would turn up in real fashion the next day at the baseball and softball stadiums by way of a Fountain City Realtor and a Vols basketball player dating a Lady Vols softball player. This is why we love sports.

The pink Daddy hat also arrived and thanks to the woman-owned Orange Mountain Designs in Blount County, it was a blue Mommy hat by Monday and is now available for Lady Vol fans.

If ever a story needed a backstory, it’s this one: The Gentlemen Vols, as I call them, celebrated home runs last season by placing a pink Daddy hat on the batter, presumably a not-so-subtle reminder to the opponent who had just got owned. The brash and very popular team – also the country’s No. 1 team right now – added a fake animal print fur coat to the homer bashes this season.

Last Saturday in the second of a three-game series against Alabama, umpire Jeffrey Macias – he is a dead ringer for Ben Stiller’s White Goodman character in “Dodgeball” – took exception to pretty much everything, tossed out Tennessee pitching coach Frank Anderson and head coach Tony Vitello in the first inning and also banned the fur coat from making an appearance on the field. Umpire Ryan Broussard, perhaps not wanting to miss the drama, tossed Alabama first base coach Matt Reida in the fourth inning.

This led Uroš Plavšic, a 7-foot forward for the Vols basketball team, to post this plea Saturday on Twitter: Alright I need a huge favor! Where can I find fur coat by noon tomorrow? Im serious about this.

Realtor Jennifer Morris responded with a photo and post: If you want it, it’s yours! It’s been in my closet for decades. It was my grannies and I’ve tried to sell it, give it away, etc. She was a firecracker and would love that it was a part of the game!

Plavšic donned the coat and the pink hat in the stands for Sunday’s rubber match against the Crimson Tide, a 15-4 smackdown by Tennessee following Saturday’s 9-2 win and Friday’s 6-3 loss, which ended the Vols’ record-breaking 12-0 start in SEC play.

He then made the short trip from Lindsey Nelson Stadium to Lee Stadium for a late Sunday afternoon game between the Lady Vols and Texas A&M, the second game in a three-game series that already had featured one come-from-behind, walk-off home run for Tennessee on Saturday. Plavšic, who is dating Tennessee outfielder Kiki Milloy – her last name likely is familiar to college and NFL football fans because her father is Lawyer Milloy – is a frequent visitor to the softball stadium.

Plavšic made sure the pink hat and fur coat made it to the Lady Vols’ dugout and – because we love sports – Tennessee naturally trailed 8-4 with two innings left to set up a dramatic finish. The Lady Vols trimmed the deficit to one run, 8-7, in the sixth inning and then catcher Kelcy Leach smacked a grand slam for the walk-off 11-7 win in the bottom of the seventh inning. Leach, a graduate transfer playing her first season at Tennessee, is the sister of former Lady Vol Aubrey Leach, a two-time All-American who serves this season as a graduate assistant for the softball team while attending the University of Tennessee College of Law.

Tennessee softball players Amanda Ayala, Ivy Davis and Kiki Milloy sport new blue Mommy hats. (Photo/Orange Mountain Designs)

Kelcy Leach donned the pink Daddy cap and fur coat for the raucous post-home run celebration Sunday. By Monday’s game, the hat was Lady Vol blue with the official logo and shouted out Mommy. Zaida Puni donned the cap and coat after a first inning, two-run shot into the outfield bleachers, adding her own flair by using the bat as a cane while teammates showered her with fake money en route to a 5-1 win.

If you’ve haven’t seen the Lady Vols or Gentlemen Vols play this season, take a trip to campus in April and May and take in a game or two. It’s worth the trip to see two high-octane and fun-loving teams – and just one more reason to love sports.

Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at Moxley Carmichael since 2013, started her journalism career at the Knoxville News Sentinel and began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press. She can be reached at mmcornelius23@gmail.com.

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