North Texas Daily

Club baseball team questions school’s support

Club baseball team questions school’s support

September 09
23:37 2015

Jesse Brackeen | Staff Writer

@hail_bracking

UNT has not had a university recognized baseball program in nearly 27 years despite being located in a talent-laden market.

Upperclassmen have been promised progress toward a resurrection of the program since they arrived at North Texas. But as the university approaches three decades without having an official team, the situation does not seem to be resolving itself.

“When I first applied to UNT and I found out they didn’t have a team, I was shocked like most people,” said criminal justice junior Ben Salter, president of the UNT Club Baseball team. “I was just asking, ‘Why? There is so much opportunity here. They could have the best DFW talent, which is some of the best talent in the world.’”

Baseball is rampant throughout Texas. There are two professional teams, six minor league affiliates and 20 Division 1 programs. Twenty-two baseball players who went to high school near the Dallas area were taken in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft, eight of whom were selected in the first five rounds.

Salter is in his first year as the club’s president and has been with the team since its inception in the fall of 2013, when the rumblings about a team at North Texas began to stir.

“My freshman year they had just announced plans to create one, and we were excited about it,” Slater said. “But after the last few years, we don’t really talk about it anymore. We are past the point of caring. We have heard for years, ‘Oh it’s going to be this year!’ Then that year passes, then it’s going to the next year and so on. I’m done guessing when it’s going to happen.”

Biology junior Dustin Mallory looks on, waiting for his turn to field during practice on Sept. 8. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

Biology junior Dustin Mallory looks on, waiting for his turn to field during practice on Sept. 8. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

The 2014 University budget allocated $600,000 to rekindle a baseball program, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle, but it was rendered obsolete in 1988. The program lasted for five seasons before being disbanded because of budget cuts as a result of Title IX requirements, said senior associate athletic director Eric Capper.

Athletics officials have been open about the desire to restart the program, but Capper said there are obstacles standing in the way of a solution.

“Through the years and since that time, obviously there have been a lot of things that have come up,” Capper said. “They have rearranged priorities for that focus including Apogee Stadium [and] Mean Green Village. There have been a lot of things that have shifted the focus as to where baseball falls.”

Capper said UNT’s recent financial woes directly affected the athletic department’s plans.

“The university ran into some financial situations that made it difficult for us to go out there and raise money for baseball,” Capper said. “So it got put on hold for a time there. Then really just recently in the last six months or so it has really come back into the light, being one of the key priorities the athletic program has going forward.”

While Capper said it is important for the department to continue improving current programs, baseball is starting to make its way to the top of North Texas’ priority list.

“It was a priority then. Some things changed, [but] now baseball is starting to become a priority again,” Capper said. “However, we are never going to sacrifice what we have for baseball.”

The clock is ticking for current North Texas students. For members of the club baseball team, including junior catcher Antonio Nichols, the proverbial clock is about to strike midnight.

“When I took the tour, they told us they were building a stadium real soon,” Nichols said. “And I thought, ‘I need to go here so I can be on the first team here.’ But I’ve been here since, heard all the rumors, and nothing ever comes of it.”

Nichols, a public relations major, who also splits 40 hours a week between two jobs to afford to play the game he loves, says his teammates want to be bettering themselves as players. The team hopes of those rumors amount to legitimate steps taken by the university, he said.

“Most of us are here because we think a team is coming,” Nichols said. “We come out here on our own because we want to be ready. We want our names to be in that hat.”

Featured Image: The North Texas baseball club stretches before practice on Sept. 8. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

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