Club sport report: UWEC baseball

Story by Janelle Gergen

The UW-Eau Claire club baseball team has gotten off to a rough start this semester, with nine losses and just one win. Their biggest problem has been their pitching, said senior Luke Anderson.

“We lost two of our three starting pitchers last year to graduation, so that’s been our biggest worry and concern,” he said. He added that they’ve had some really close losses – three within one point – but it’s difficult to win when they can’t get their pitching down.

The team is also incredibly young, which plays a role as well, but it’s doing fairly well on the offensive side, Anderson said.

“A thing we’re doing well right now is our line-up, I guess, hitting-wise,” he said. “We are young, but we have a lot of returning starters from last year. Of our starting line-up, we lost maybe one or two guys, so we have a lot of experienced guys, even though they’re young.”

Anderson is hopeful the team’s standings will improve by the end of the semester.

“We’re doing our best,” he said. “We’re trying to solve out all the kinks and stuff like that, so hopefully we’ll be middle of the pack in the conference by the end of the year. I’m not really expecting to be first or second.”

Playing baseball through a club sport program is fairly expensive, Anderson said, so fundraising is important. The group is allotted some funds through the university, but a lot of the costs still come out of the players’ pockets.

“All of our financial stuff, paying for hotels when we go on the road – we went down to Florida over spring break – it’s all paid through us, through our own fundraising, out of our pockets,” he said. He added that the team is doing well financially this semester, but it can be difficult at times.

This year, they received a donation of batting gloves and catching equipment from a former player who now works for Under Armour. That was really helpful, he said.

“We haven’t gotten any new bats or equipment in three years, and you know that stuff starts to wear out after a while, so little donations like that help a lot,” he said.

The team also sends out letters to family and friends, asking for donations, and the players have even held date auctions in the past. Any player who received bids had to take their ‘winner’ out on a date.

“In the past, that hasn’t gone all that well,” Anderson said, “so I don’t think we’re going to do that this year.”

The team currently does not have a coach, with decisions being made by a committee of students on the team and presided over by a student president, but that’s something that may change, Anderson said.

“There was talk this year about hiring a coach from the outside,” he said. “I guess it just makes it easier, since we know all the players and stuff like that, to have kind of an unbiased member come in and judge the talent in that manner.”

Eau Claire had a varsity baseball team for about 50 years, but it was dropped in 1995, according to Daniel Langlois, the team’s advisor and assistant director of University Recreation and Sports. There was a mixture of reasons given, he said, but interest in the sport continued afterwards.

“With the fabulous interest that continued even after ’95,” he said, “we didn’t hesitate whatsoever to continue that legacy in a club format.”

The club baseball team is an important aspect of the university, Langlois said, because of the long history of the sport in the area.

“It’s really tremendous because we have a big 10-caliber baseball stadium and a rich history in the city of Eau Claire with Henry Aaron starting his career in Carson Park,” he said, also mentioning a number of other important players that got started in Eau Claire.

“So this city has a very, very rich baseball history,” he said.

The club team was formed shortly after the varsity team was dropped, with the idea that it may become a varsity sport again someday, Langlois said. He added that he immediately accepted the position as adviser because of the value he saw in baseball at the university.

“Baseball is such a rich part of our culture and especially our city,” he said. “And the interest is huge — the history of Carson Park, the interest of persons on campus, alumni. . I think somebody referred to it as the American pastime, right?”