February has come and gone, and with it, Baseball Spring Training. MLB games were set to begin February 26th with pitchers and catchers reporting February 15th. Excitement for the upcoming baseball season has been simmering, but because of an ongoing MLB lockout, baseball fans are aching for other games to watch. Nothing beats the atmosphere of viewing the game from within a baseball stadium. Whether that be in an MLB stadium or at your home optimist park, the peanuts and Coke just taste better sitting in hard, plastic seating with the sun beating down. But for all its fun, where are we–as Furman students–able to catch a baseball game?
Baseball was and still is a favorite sport across America. With origins dating back to 1838, the game has become an iconic nationwide pastime. 30 MLB teams, 120 Minor League teams, and 1,680 College teams (including all branches) make up just a small number of teams across America.
Except, as we all know, Furman doesn’t have a college team, so we don’t contribute to these numbers. So, where are we supposed to go to watch a college baseball game? NGU? Clemson? Wofford? At any of those schools, we would have to pay for tickets as non-students. I can’t speak for everyone, but as for me and my friends, we’re not going to pay to watch people we don’t even know and cheer for a school that isn't ours to call home.
At the outset of Spring, many Furman students and alumni are questioning, "Why do we not have a team?" Furman baseball was going strong since its installment in 1896 until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in Spring 2020. At that point, the team was informed over a Zoom call that the program would be suspended, leaving 35 men to find a new purpose at Furman, and about 27 men to look for new schools so they can continue playing the game they love.
Admin cites the reason for its suspension as a lack of funding due to the Covid crisis. While this may have appeared reasonable at the time, it seems now like more of an excuse. Furman alumni are nothing short of generous, donating $5,049,284 to the Furman Athletic Fund in the 2019-2020 year. In addition to those donations, the Save Furman Baseball group was formed by alumni and the families of the players in May of 2020. This group has proven more than willing to fundraise and donate to save the program.
The group has multiple arguments for revamping the program. Beyond the idea of bringing an element of school spirit back, the site states another valuable reason to bring the program back, emphasizing that our baseball team positively impacted Greenville and the Upstate with their “philanthropic work unrivaled by any other sports team on campus.” My favorite line? “Baseball presents one of the strongest images of Furman to the region and nation.”
We lost a significant part of our student population upon the suspension of the baseball program. These men were forced to split up from their best friends and find a new home when they were established here. It was cruel. I worked with the baseball team and became close with many of the guys, and the devastation they felt from the dissolution of their sport hurt me. The players and NARPs (Non-athletic regular people) lost their best friends because of a decision that was told to the coaches only a few hours before the teams were told. These programs weren’t given an opportunity to fight to keep their teams.
Although we’re still reeling from the pandemic, there’s no clear reason that Furman shouldn’t be working to reinstate the baseball program. I mean, they continue to mow the outfield, drag the diamond, and turn the stadium lights on. In worrying so heavily about the appearance of the campus, Furman has wasted money on fixing up a stadium that serves no purpose anymore. They could at least work on bringing the program back and give the field a reason to be used again. It’s time in 2022 for Furman to reevaluate their athletic programs and bring back baseball.
To learn more about the fight to reinstate Furman Baseball, visit https://savefurmanbaseball.com.