Late at night, the Oregon club baseball team can be found practicing on the Student Recreation Center’s turf fields. One of the biggest challenges for the team each season is finding suitable facilities and this season is no different.
While the turf surface might be preferred by the team, practicing outside late at night and staying dry is at the center of the club team’s concerns, citing waterlogged baseballs as a cause of arm injuries. The immediate solution would be for the team to practice in the Moshofsky Center, which houses an indoor field and equipment previously used by the university’s Division 1 baseball team. According to senior third baseman Andrew Walzer and team coordinator Mikey Finneran, the club team has reached out several times to the UO athletic department to negotiate times to utilize the facilities.
In a phone interview with the Emerald, Senior Associate Athletic Director Craig Pintens said the club team has met with Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Jim Bartko.
“While PK Park was offered as an option for the team to play its home games in (earlier this season), the Moshofsky Center was never an option to use for practices (because of scheduling conflicts),” Pintens said. As a result of the failed attempt to gain access to the Moshofsky center, the team still practices on the turf fields.
While the team has been trying to influence the athletic department in its favor, the program has had a spotty history with the department. One incident came last year after sweeping a Las Vegas tournament featuring top-tier competition. A disgruntled passenger on their flight home wrote a letter to Oregon’s dean and athletic director regarding the team’s rowdy behavior on the flight.
When word got to the Club Sports administrative team about the email, the team’s season was nearly suspended.
“We were having the best weekend of our lives, and to have that all come crashing down because (of this) email was tragic,” Walzer said.
To get back in the university’s good graces, the club team has participated in University Day and volunteered to help with tryouts at a local high school amongst other community focused efforts.
Despite the club’s improved behavior, another incident occurred at the beginning of this season at PK Park. The club’s fans were allegedly being disruptive at the game and the club has not played in the facility since.
“The guys have really learned from that,” Finneran said. “As long as the leaders on the team continue to try and instill that new culture, we should be able to move past (those incidents).”
The team now plays its home games in Volcanoes Stadium, which is about an hour away from Eugene in Keizer, Ore. For comparison, Oregon State’s club baseball team plays its home games at Goss Stadium, home to the Beavers’ Division 1 baseball team.
Ultimately, the team simply wants to play in front of its fans. With the team now sitting at 7-1 on the season and ranked No. 14 by the NCBA, it has a chance to go deep into the postseason. Club baseball’s World Series is held annually in Tampa, Fla., and it’s been in the team’s sights since the first practice, according to sophomore starting pitcher Derek Merryweather.
“We’re confident we can not only make it, but do well in Tampa too,” Merryweather said.
“As we continue to get better and better, more and more people are going to recognize club baseball and maybe treat us more like a Division 1 team,” Walzer said. “We’re still a real baseball team.”
Follow Josh Schlichter on Twitter @joshschlichter