It’s no secret. I’m a big baseball fan.
I’ve played the sacred sport all my life.
My mood strongly depends on how well the San Francisco Giants do. If they win, I’ll be happy. If they lose, there may or may not be a hole in my wall (true story).
All the clichés of baseball being America’s pastime are out there. And for the most part, the clichés are true.
This is why UC Berkeley’s recent decision to cut its baseball program after the 2011 season is wrong on numerous levels.
Cal, like many other California public universities, is in a tight budget crunch, and it’s the sports department on the chopping block. According to a press release sent out by Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau and athletic director Sandy Barbour, the campus was providing $12 million a year to keep Cal Athletics afloat. This, according to the press release, was “unsustainable.”
Money, along with other factors like success, history, student participation and Title IX were the deciding factors that led the Golden Bears to cut baseball, women’s lacrosse and women’s gymnastics outright. It also forced Cal to relegate arguably its most successful team -men’s rugby – to club status.
UC Davis already experienced the pain of sports cuts. Last spring, the Aggies were forced to cut women’s rowing, men’s swimming and diving, wrestling and men’s indoor track for very similar reasons.
Obviously losing all those sports for Cal is a tragedy. There will be kids losing scholarships, coaches out of a job, and a student body with four less sports to cheer for. With all due respect to the other three teams, baseball clearly is the one that jumps out of the page.
How could a college, a Pacific 10 school no less, decide to cut baseball, the unifying sport that can turn enemies into friends and friends into enemies?
“I think it’s tragic that a west coast school, let alone a Pac 10 school had to cut baseball,” said UC Davis baseball coach Rex Peters. “Baseball is so dominant on the west coast, but the situation [forced them] to get rid of it.”
I don’t think there is a way to put dominance of baseball on the Pacific coast into words. As a former club player that traveled up and down California playing in tournaments, I saw first hand how intense baseball could get here. While Texas has football moms, California has baseball moms.
It’s a shame Cal had to cut America’s Pastime. Birgeneau and Barbour were in incredibly difficult situations. They needed to trim the budget and probably used a cost-income method to determine which sports could be cut.
Baseball is a very expensive sport to play and maintain on a budget. The costs of bats, gloves, shoes, helmets, balls, hats and other equipment for more than 30 people can really add up.
However, the tradition of baseball should be enough reason for Cal to hold onto the sport.
Cal Baseball won the 1947 and 1957 College World Series. The Golden Bears have won 20 regular season conference titles. Former Giants great and second basemen Jeff Kent went to Cal. The list of Golden Bear baseball accomplishments goes on and on. Unfortunately, the open history books are going to shut.
The Aggies and Golden Bears have a long track record of playing each other on the diamond. UC Davis topped Cal twice last season in a pair of exciting games. The two squads will match up twice this season for the final time.
“I don’t know what games will be like this upcoming season,” Peters said. “The program has taken a hard hit and it will be interesting to see how they progress morale-wise. It’s a pretty talented roster and very competitive, too.”
Peters said he couldn’t imagine what the team atmosphere will be like for the 2011 season. Will the team be somber and unmotivated to play knowing this will possibly be the last time Cal will ever have a baseball team? Or will the squad want to show Birgeneau and Barbour they made the wrong decision by cutting the sport?
I’m almost 100 percent confident it will be the latter. I know baseball players. I know how they think. They keep on fighting and competing all the way until the last out of the last inning.
JASON ALPERT has been living and breathing baseball for the past couple weeks and is hoping for it to last just a couple more. To talk baseball or San Francisco Giants, e-mail him at email@example.com.