…And they’re out

Last spring, UVM baseball players sat silently in Ira Allen Chapel, in the uniforms they would no longer be asked to wear, protesting the University’s decision to end the sport that had helped to shape their lives. Nonetheless, the program left and so did most of the players. For those that stayed, life at UVM is very different.The UVM athletic department announced in February that it would be discontinuing varsity baseball and softball at the end of the 2009 season. Due to budget cuts, 43 student-athletes were left without teams to play for and five UVM staff members were left without a program to work for.With their sports no longer offered this year at UVM, the majority of players have chosen to transfer to other schools in order to continue playing their respective sports.”Some [players] have graduated, some have been drafted into Major League Baseball, most all of the others have been forced to transfer away from UVM in order to play the sport they have been trained to play their entire lives,” senior Kyle Tufts said. “There are even more who had committed to come to UVM to play baseball this year who had to change plans after Feb. 20.”For those players who chose to stay at UVM, the University is honoring all of the scholarships that were awarded to the student-athletes.Though most players of the former teams are no longer at Vermont, Tufts, a former UVM baseball player, has chosen to stay and graduate a semester early rather than complete his entire senior year without baseball.”I chose to graduate early so I wouldn’t be on campus next semester and have to look at the empty Centennial Field sit silent with an uncertain future of its own,” Tufts said.Tufts chose to stay at UVM largely because of the issues involved with switching universities. He would not be able to continue playing baseball without making significant sacrifices to his academic career.”Many factors, including the difficulty in transferring three years of credits and starting all over at a new school for one year — or probably more due to transfer credit issues — played into my decision,” Tufts said.Junior Caroline Goddard, a former softball player, is more optimistic about staying at the University for her two remaining undergraduate years. Despite the incredible sadness she feels over the loss of the sport that she loves, she also values her experience and education at UVM enough to stay at the University.”When it came down to decide whether to return to UVM, I had to set aside my bitterness at the athletic department that gave up on our softball program and made decisions that don’t stand up to scrutiny,” Goddard said. “In the end though, I couldn’t let a few administrators overshadow the fact that I love this school.””The powers-that-be took away my sport, but I’m not going to let them take away the school where I am otherwise happy and successful,” Goddard added. “It’s a real testament to the professors, students and people I’ve met here that I loved Vermont enough to come back.”Although she’s happy at UVM, the University is not the same place for Goddard without softball. She has lost teammates and friends to other universities as they have continued to play softball elsewere.”While the year is just beginning, I can already tell that it will be very different,” she said. “I’m not allowed by NCAA rules to play intramural softball and the idea of playing on a club team just doesn’t live up to my previous two years of experience as a Division 1 softball player.”Besides the student-athletes and UVM employees who were touched by the budget cuts, the UVM community and surrounding area has also been affected. Some community members have been outraged by the University’s actions.Jim Carter, who graduated from UVM in 1983 with a master’s degree in education and is now a public school teacher and baseball coach in Vermont, has actively tried to voice his concerns about the morality of the decisions made by the administration.”Bill Currier had been the head baseball coach for 22 years before his position was eliminated,” Carter said in an e-mail to Vermont media outlets. “Here was a loyal, talented and dedicated employee. The student -athletes he coached had a 95 percent graduation rate. Yet, in spite of his dedication to the University as a student and employee over those 26 years, coach Currier was not offered an opportunity to finish out his working life with a job position at UVM. Does this seem right?”Carter also questioned the logic of the decision to cut baseball and softball.”Although UVM baseball was the 17th least expensive sport, out of 20 at the University, the Athletic Administration deemed it necessary to eliminate the sport due to budgetary factors,” Carter said. “Softball was also eliminated though it was the least expensive of all sports. There are still many unanswered questions regarding that decision.”Another community concern is that the minor league baseball team, the Lake Monsters, will potentially leave Burlington due to the condition of Centennial Field.The Lake Monsters “brought in over 84,000 fans this summer and provided good old-fashioned fun, not to mention much revenue for Burlington,” Tufts said.”I am sure that you are aware of the staggering loss this would be for the Vermont community in terms of lost revenue, jobs and family entertainment,” Carter added. Centennnial Field no longer bustles with activity. Though the future of the field is uncertain, this image will remain for a very long time.