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It's a rap: Plainedge softball team doesn't miss a beat

Plainedge softball team goofs around after Saturday's scrimmage

Plainedge softball team goofs around after Saturday's scrimmage with Hauppauge. (April 3, 2010) Credit: Newsday/Stephen Haynes

The Plainedge softball team never knew it would happen, this rapping stuff. The players were too used to swinging bats and such. But it started when Nicole O'Connor posed the burning question to coach Jason McGowan: "Why haven't you recorded a song for us?"

The coach, a for-fun rapper, had done intro themes for the Bellport football and Bay Shore softball teams, and the Red Devils wanted their own. McGowan tossed his players a changeup, promising to do it . . . if they came up with the lyrics.

And so began their quest to pen a hit single. It'll be their version of the "Super Bowl Shuffle," with softball-related rhymes about themselves. So rest assured, a "parental advisory" sticker won't be necessary.

The team's mission, which it has chosen to accept, is to come up with a few lines each and form a cohesive rap song before season's end. And, of course, play hard and win. Their unofficial motto could be "hustle and flow."

" . . . If I hadn't moved, they never would've found me," rapped Steph McKenna, a transfer from Sachem. "Last year all-conference, this year all-county."

That line was followed by a beat box, in which she successfully mimicked a snare drum and high hat.

Most of the girls have been a little apprehensive about reciting their lines, and Lady Gaga and Ke$ha are the consensus favorites, but McGowan insists the Red Devils have some B-boy flair.

"Sometimes I'll catch [Michelle] Daubman dancing on the infield when she thinks I'm not looking," he said as the star pitcher smiled sheepishly. "And I heard Megan Andrews was cutting a rug at a birthday party."

As he said that, freshman Jackie Oleksak broke into an MC Hammer running man dance, to her fellow rappers' delight.

"We work hard, but we like to have fun," McKenna said. "You're not going to be a good team unless you're having fun."

There isn't a direct correlation, but Plainedge reached the second round of the Class A playoffs last year and is 3-0 this season with wins over some of Nassau's elite. And they've donea lot of laughing along the way.

"Yeah, we goof around quite a bit," shortstop Tina Zollo said.

McGowan, 37, grew up listening to hip-hop and was a fan of Rakim, Eminem and Notorious B.IG. (For the record, his brother James, the Hauppauge softball coach, was a 2Pac fan.)

His foray into scholastic rap came in 2006 when, as a favor to his father, Bay Shore coach Jim McGowan, he came up with the Marauders' intro (rapped over D12's "Fight Music" beat).

Most recently, McGowan filmed a "Math Rap" music video - which can be viewed on YouTube - for his students at Amityville High School.

"It's really cool," Andrews said. "He's unique. I don't know if any other coach raps."

His dad, perhaps? "No way," McGowan chuckled, fully aware of Jim's reputation as an old-school disciplinarian. "He's into Bruce Springsteen, Four Tops and, believe it or not, Prince. As a kid, I'd wake up every Sunday morning to him blasting that."

McGowan's unorthodox style extends to practice. On a recent rainy morning, his team's session was held in the school's gymnasium, where he broke out the reaction balls (angular rubber objects designed to take weird hops) for ground ball fielding. Then the Nerf football. McGowan threw deep and the players, running go-routes and post routes, made over-the-shoulder catches. The exercise, he said, helps them go back on fly balls.

All of it, outfielder Jackie Fiumara said, has helped to foster a "family atmosphere."

"I play soccer and basketball as well, and nothing compares to this," Daubman said. "We have so much fun that it's never at all like, 'Ugh, practice.' It's like, 'Yes!' "

And if you don't know, now you know.

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