Have beanbags, will travel
Published 11:58 am Wednesday, January 2, 2019
As this writer was reminded on Saturday, “There’s a national championship for everything,” and that includes the well-known game of cornhole. Two local students at Paul D. Camp Community College who can eagerly testify to that are Matt Stout and Blake Rose. They participated in the National College Cornhole Championship at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
For the uninitiated, the game is played by tossing small beanbags (some likely also filled with corn) onto a raised board with a hole at the far end. Each time a bag is successfully put through that space, points are won, and the person or team that gets the most points, wins.
Speaking from the road heading home, they spoke about how they got interested in the game and more deeply involved.
“I’ve been playing since fifth grade … in local tournaments and then professionally while a freshman in high school,” said Stout, who lives in the Scottswood section of Hunterdale. He’s been able to travel in the country to play, adding that there are big money tournaments everywhere.
“I’ve had some encouraging wins,” he said, joking ‘Where did the money go?’ “[At one time] I was No. 1 in the 18 and under division in the world, and also second in the state. I’ve got quite a few awards.”
Cornhole and college are not the young man’s ties to PDCCC. He also played first base and centerfield for the inaugural baseball team, the Hurricanes, which formed in 2017.
“I’m really competitive. I like that spirit,” said Stout. He’s also drawn by others who enjoy the game. “It’s the people you meet — there’s a whole other family. I have just as many friends since I started playing.”
Supporting him in this venture are his family. Trina, his mother, was going to come down to the beach, but inclement weather and work were prohibitive. His father, John, and little sister, Claudia, are also big supporters, though Matt’s the only one who plays.
Now that Stout is working at ST Tissue, the time to travel and play is limited, but when opportunities to do so come up, he added, “I still finish really well.”
For example, realizing they were off this weekend, the men headed south.
“I decided I was going to go for it and see what I can do,” said Stout.
The 20-year-old won a $3,000 prize in the singles division on Saturday, but they didn’t win in the doubles division. Though they also did not succeed in the pro-invitational game that featured the top eight players, they were glad to be included.
Stout’s money is likely to go toward tuition for college, where he’s majoring in general studies for now.
He plans to continue playing whenever and wherever possible and “hopefully, just keep on winning.”
“Matt talked me into it,” said Rose about their road trip to the tournament. Though the Ivor resident had played in two small contests earlier this year, the weekend event was Blake’s first big competition in cornhole.
“We knew each other before when we were 6 to 8 year old playing baseball against one another and in high school with each other,” said Rose, 20.
Before his friend got him interested in cornhole, he always thought of it as “kind of a beach thing” that he played every summer starting in ninth grade.
“Baseball was always my thing,” added Rose, who is majoring in business at the college. He also was on the first Hurricanes team, though that has stopped for them as they are no longer eligible to play.
Last year, Rose was a left-handed pitcher and outfielder, but he’ll still have his hand in a glove to help out the new team by coaching outfield when the spring season begins.
As for learning the game of cornhole, he said, “I didn’t learn a technique until a couple of years ago.”
An example is spinning the bag to improve accuracy and keep it from cartwheeling off the board.
Though they don’t really play cornhole, his parents Mark and Amy Rose, and older sister Bridgete, are likewise supportive.
“They are getting into it a little more,” he said of them. Rose said he enjoys that game because it’s competitive, doesn’t take up a lot of time and, of course, it’s fun. He also gets to socialize and talk to fellow players.
What’s not to like?
PDCCC athletic director and their former coach, David Mitchell, later confirmed that they had exhausted their eligibility to play for the college. He was watching the young men from home because the tournament was broadcast on ESPN.
“I knew both were going down. They kept me informed on the day before,” said Mitchell. “I watched Matt on Saturday win the singles. On Sunday, my whole family gathered around the TV and cheered them on.”
He added that it was “Pretty neat to have everyone following them [on social media,]” and noted that Stout and Rose told the interviewers about where they came from and their connection to the college and the Hurricanes. He was also impressed that the college representation was included with schools from larger name leagues such as the Southeastern Conference and ACC.
“I’m proud of them as a coach and somebody who’s gotten to know them over the last year, and proud of how they carried themselves on TV,” said Mitchell. “I was extremely excited and real happy for the opportunity they had.”