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It was one of those “where were you?” moments.
I was in my living room, checking my email, when that message from President Colleen Hanycz popped up into the top of my inbox. It was paragraph upon paragraph of fluff, with the University doing their best to soften the blow that was buried further along in the email. But can you really sugarcoat announcing that seven of the university’s athletics programs would be terminated after this school year?
The most shocking program on that list, at least for myself, was baseball. To my knowledge, as someone who knows quite a bit about La Salle sports, baseball had always done fairly well. They seemed like one of the most popular sports at the University, their athletes some of the most well-known around campus. There were some sports on the list that were understandable…but baseball? Really?
None of the teams were given a chance to fundraise for themselves before the announcement came out, which is an issue in and of itself. This piece is not trying to suggest that baseball is somehow more deserving of being saved than any of the other sports that are being cut, but their performance this season is really leaving La Salle with egg on its face.
Let’s start with their record: 20-11 overall, 6-2 in the A10. It’s close to being the best record at this point in the season, and has included some truly spectacular games, comebacks that left fans on the edges of their seats, absolute dominance over opponents (e.g. the 22-2 victory over Penn earlier this month) and players wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They’ve been vocal about how hard they’re willing to fight to keep their program alive, but it’s not stated more loudly than in how they play.
Freshman pitcher Frank Elissalt could easily throw in the towel and not care about how he pitches. What’s the point, right? But he does the exact opposite. He’s now earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week four times, along with earning Pitcher of the Week twice.
Junior catcher Tatem Levins has options outside of La Salle. He doesn’t need to show up in the batter’s box and behind the plate the way that he does, but he has not let up in his incredible and consistent performances.
There are plenty more individuals that could be named here (Elijah Dickerson, Ryan Guckin, Nick Di Vietro, Connor Coolahan, etc.) and that should tell you something. These players don’t have a certain future at La Salle. They chose to come here to play the sport they love and represent the University with everything they’ve got, only to be blindsided by a program slashing that was purely driven by financial interest with little to no regard for the welfare of the student-athletes it would be affecting. Shouldn’t it tell you something, President Hanycz, that even though you and the University turned your back on these players, they’ve still fought tooth and nail and put their blood, sweat and tears into ensuring that La Salle is currently sitting at the top of the A10?
Legendary soccer defender Tony Adams once said, “Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name on the back.” That’s what this current La Salle baseball team is doing. The University’s name will be attached to whatever accolades they collect this season, but as a community, we’ll remember the individual players that didn’t let their team be taken away from them without an admirable fight. Whether or not the team is able to be saved, this particular team won’t be lost in the shuffle of decades of iconic baseball squads.
Forget Hank DeVincent. No matter what, the names of these current players will be the ones permanently etched in the earth between McCarthy Stadium and St. Basil’s.