'Britt can still bring it,' an observer said while watching Britt Reames pitch batting practice for Furman the other day as the Paladins prepared for the Southern Conference tournament at Riley Park. The 36-year-old Reames, a Seneca native, Citadel Hall of Famer and veteran of six major league seasons, is in his second season as pitching coach for the Paladins. Reames, a 1996 graduate of The Citadel, was 18-7 with a 2.03 ERA as a Bulldog, helping The Citadel to two NCAA regional appearances. The Cardinals picked him in the 17th round of the draft in 1995. Reames talked about his career, his life now and his view of Citadel ace Asher Wojciechowski when he went One-on-One with The Post and Courier's Jeff Hartsell:
How strange was it the first time you put on the uniform of The Citadel's rival, Furman?
"It wasn't that strange. I guess because I had been out of college baseball for so long. I was just happy to put on a uniform and get back in a competitive atmosphere. But being on the coaching side of things was an adjustment for me."
How do you like coaching?
"I love it. I'll do this for the rest of my life. Pretty much all I know is baseball. I love it and it's in my blood. So I get to be a part of it and be around kids who have a passion for the game. They are standing where I once stood, and you see their progression, gettting better and moving on to careers in baseball or in the business world. It's very rewarding to see that happen."
You looked like you were having fun out there pitching batting practice.
"I don't know how much fun it is. I got gassed there at the end. That's all I've got left."
Tell us about your family.
"I've got a wonderful wife, Laura (Carmody), who is from Chicago. We've been married for about 3 1/2 years, and we've got our first little boy on the way. In fact, she's due any day now."
When you return to The Citadel, for this tournament or for a baseball series, what are the chief memories that come back?
"A lot of hard work. It's where the basis for my foundation began, outside of my family and my dad. Just the grittiness, the Bulldog atmosphere, the regimen we were on. And then the great baseball that we played. Some of the greatest memories I have come from being at The Citadel, and one day I hope I'll get an opportunity to be back here."
Are some of those teammates still your close friends?
"Yeah, some of my closest friends. David Beckley, who coaches at The Citadel. Rusty Hughes, he's our liasion this week for Furman. Ryan Butler, Bo Betchman, Donald Morillo, Norman Howard, just to name a few. You really develop some lasting friendships through The Citadel."
What was the highlight of your big league career?
"Had to be my first start. Getting called up to St. Louis (in 2000), and making the playoff roster and being able to pitch in that atmosphere. We made it to the NLCS that year and got beat by the Mets."
What was that first start like? You had to be nervous.
"Man, it was a whirlwind. It's something you work for your whole life. I was called up on my birthday, Aug. 19, 2000. And I made my first start the next day against the Phillies. I was a little bit jittery, walked six or seven, but I only gave up three runs. Unfortunately, the guy we were facing threw a one-hitter against us, a complete-game shutout, so I got my first big league loss."
What's that day like when you get to call your family and say, 'I'm going to The Show' "?
"It was almost more rewarding for them than it was for me. I just knew how competitive my dad is, and how much he loves us and is proud of us, and he was there. My whole family was there to see my first start. It meant a lot to them."
Tell us about the Reames baseball family tree.
"My dad, Byron, played in the NFL for a short stint. Then there's me, then the middle brother, Jay Reames, who went to South Carolina first and then transferred to The Citadel and spent seven years in pro ball. Then there's the youngest brother, Joe Don, who played football and baseball at Clemson and went on to play some pro baseball."
The Citadel has a pitcher, Asher Wojciechowski, who some think could be a first-round pick. What's your take on Wojo?
"Wojo, he's a big guy and still in the process of developing. He's got a really good fastball right now, but maybe needs to get more consistent with his off-speed pitches. He's a dang workhorse and has the body to be an inning-eater at the professional level. I think he's got a great chance at the next level. He's done a great job this year."