UW-Eau Claire athletics missing great opportunities without a varsity baseball team

UW-Eau Claire continues to miss out on great opportunities without a varsity baseball team

More stories from Trent Tetzlaff

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Photo by Trent Tetzlaff

Carson Park, located just a short drive away from UW-Eau Claire could potentially be a home for a varsity baseball team at Eau Claire.

While taking in an Eau Claire Express baseball game at Carson Park with some friends last summer, I couldn’t help but smile about the sights, sounds and smells that came with the reasonably priced ticket.

Brats and hot dogs cooking on the grill, the crack of the wood bat, the national anthem and the smiles of the players running off the field after a victory.

All these images in my head paint the picture as to why people continue to love the game of baseball, America’s pastime. However, baseball was cut as a varsity sport at UW-Eau Claire in 1995.

In 1972, an educational amendment known as Title IX was created requiring intercollegiate athletic programs to provide equal opportunity for both men and women.

To stay in compliance with Title IX, the university has to keep the difference between the percentage of male athletes to female athletes at five percent or less. This means if Eau Claire wanted to bring baseball back as a varsity sport, they would need to add another women’s team, or cut another men’s sport to stay in compliance.

Along with this, in a 2010 interview with The Spectator, former director of athletics Scott Kilgallon said on top of Title IX complications, the university would also need to spend more money to create office space, hire trainers and fund the team.

Although all of these issues are reasons enough for Eau Claire to shy away from the thought of revitalizing the varsity baseball program, the positives of what baseball could bring to the school and the city far outweigh the negatives.

The city of Eau Claire for years has had success when it comes to baseball, with Eau Claire North, Regis and Memorial making trips to several state tournaments throughout program history and most recently North winning state in 2011. Along with the high schools, the college summer league teams the Cavaliers and the Express have also made deep playoff runs in their time on the Carson Park diamond.

Along with these teams, the little talked about UW-Eau Claire club baseball team has also had success of it’s own since the varsity sport was cut. Funding themselves with a small amount of segregated fees from the university, fundraising efforts and player dues the team has continued to compete with club teams from all over the Midwest winning multiple conference championships and going to the NCBA World Series in 2004 and 2005.

Junior Isaac Parupsky who plays on the club team said with all the local talent from the high schools and the area in general, if the club team were to become a varsity sport once again there would be no issue with finding talent.

“I do believe we would have success,” he said. “Especially considering that when I was a freshman, my class made up a majority of the team.”

The club team plays its games in the spring and the fall at Bollinger field, a rather barebones field with little seating.

However, Parupsky said if the team were ever to return to being a varsity sport he thinks the rather small fan base that comes out to support the team now would grow rather quickly and the community would begin to support the team.

“There are a decent amount of fans that show up to our games at Bollinger, but if we became an NCAA team there would be plenty of more benefits,” he said. “More people would recognize Eau Claire as a baseball school again.”

Despite the struggle to find money within the UW-System over the past decade, I can only see bringing back baseball as a varsity sport to Eau Claire as a boost to the athletic department. With success the team could potentially move to playing at Carson Park where they could once again pack a stadium and get back on the right path to winning.

There is no reason the multiple high school players over the last years who have found themselves playing for neighboring UW-Stout, and various other schools throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota, wouldn’t stay at home to be able to continue to play on Carson Park’s diamond.

Despite rejection of appeal after appeal to become a varsity sport once again since 1995, Parupsky said all the team can do is continue to win and show they deserve recognition as a varsity sport.

“We can continue to take strides by continuing to be a championship contender,” he said. “Just getting our name out there more and raising awareness that we deserve to be more than just a club sport.”