Club baseball keeps ‘Bring it Back’ movement alive

Nickie Morris, Staff Writer

Burlington’s Centennial Field is the oldest minor league baseball stadium in the country, housing the Vermont Lake Monsters in the summer. In the spring and fall, it sits empty.

UVM has no Division I varsity baseball team.

Jim Carter has coached club baseball since 2009. Before, he coached the varsity team, which was eliminated in 2009 due to budget cuts.

Carter is a member of the Friends of UVM Baseball Activities, a group that has met 70 times since 2009 in an effort to reinstate varsity baseball and softball, he said.

“The former athletic director told us we need a $15 million endowment to bring baseball back, then lowered it to $10 million and then left,” Carter said. “Now, the new director says we need $1 million, but no other current sport has any endowment.”

The Friends run frequent fundraisers for club baseball and a varsity baseball endowment.

They make around $10,000 each time, but this is still not  enough, Carter said.

Athletics Director Jeff Schulman disagreed with the specifics of Friends budget claims.

Schulman said that he has a lot of respect for the work the Friends are doing, but that their conversations have been more general in nature.

“To even consider bringing a sport back we have to make sure it’s financially stable without taking away from other programs,” Schulman said. “We haven’t talked that specifically with exact dollar amounts about baseball.”

The club team has 12 games in the fall, and six are played at home.

They have been division champions four years in a row, said senior Ryan Connor, club baseball captain and president.

Connor came to UVM club baseball despite Coach Carter’s insistence that he could have pitched at a low-to-mid level Division I school.

“I chose club baseball here because I wanted to have extracurriculars outside of just my sport, which everyone can do with club, as we practice a few days a week instead of all the time,” Connor said.

He also said that there are academic benefits to the greater flexibility a club sport brings.

Both Connor and Carter said UVM has the talent and resources to create a competitive varsity team.

“I’ve coached baseball for over 40 years, many at the Division I level before it was taken away, and I’d say that in the club years we’ve had at least 12 guys who could play Division I,” Carter said.

The athletic department’s recent proposal for an $80 million renovation to Patrick Gym reveals information about UVM athletics funding, with no money going toward the proposed varsity baseball team.

“While the current priority is the 18 current varsity sports, the landscape for college athletics is evolving,” Schulman said. “While I don’t see baseball coming back soon, it’s certainly possible that we could reconsider baseball or other dropped sports in the future.”