After 13 years as club sport, team looks to return as varsity

Eau Claire is a city rich in baseball history and tradition. It is a city in which baseball greats Hank Aaron and Joe Torre played.

It is a city that has the Eau Claire Express, the Eau Claire Cavaliers, the Eau Claire Bears and an abundance of high school and little league teams. One thing the city doesn’t have however, is a college varsity baseball team.

Currently, UW-Eau Claire does not recognize baseball as a varsity sport. The university does have a baseball team, but it is just a club sport. That is something current team president, senior Lane “Scooter” Cooke and former president Pete Storm hope to change.

“I think it’d be a great addition to, first of all the sports program, but even with the city and the tradition,” Storm said. “Baseball was a pretty established sport before it got dropped.”

The biggest difference between a varsity sport and a club sport is that club sports are not funded by the university. Cooke said the team has to do a lot of fundraising just to keep the team going.

One of the biggest challenges facing Cooke, Storm and the rest of the baseball team is money. But Cook said the team has the support of the community, the surrounding baseball teams and the students.

Eau Claire had a varsity team at one time, but in 1995 the program was cut. Neither Cooke nor Storm knew the exact reason why it was cut, but both said they feel it is important to get the program back.

Cooke and Storm said that making baseball a varsity sport would not only benefit the baseball program, but other varsity programs at Eau Claire as well.

“It would be great for the school itself because we got guys that are multiple sport players, guys that want to play football and baseball,” Cooke said. “They’re looking here, they don’t have varsity here, they’re going elsewhere.”

Storm is no longer a part of the team, but he is still involved with getting this problem taken care of. Even though it is not something that will benefit either of them, they both said it feels important to follow through with the project.

“It’s America’s past time,” Cooke said. “It would be nice to leave our legacy with varsity coming back.”

Storm was quick to agree with Cooke.

“I want to see baseball progress and that final progression would be varsity baseball,” Storm said. “I won’t benefit from it, but I know kids down the road coming to play at Eau Claire will.”

The project is a work in progress, but Cooke and Storm are both optimistic it will become a varsity sport soon. Storm said his goal is two years, but he said that is a pretty high goal.

“We’ve got community support and we have a petition started with students,” said Storm. “Ultimately it’s going to come down to student interest to bring it back and I think we have that.”