After a disappointing 2009-’10 season, the Kwantlen Eagles baseball program has folded this season.
“The baseball program operated as a club team, therefore it was a self-sustaining program. Although the university provided funds to assist the team in completing its final year, the club was unable to sustain itself financially,” athletics director Elise Le Brun wrote in an email.
The difference between a club team and a varsity team — the basketball and soccer teams are varsity teams — is funding. The baseball team was essentially paying its own way to play. While Kwantlen did contribute some funds to assist the team, it far less than the funding received by Kwantlen’s basketball program.
“The first year I was there, we got a little bit [of funding] and then the second we got even less. It was ridiculous. We almost couldn’t even finish our season the second year because we had no money,” said last season’s catcher Colton Mace.
The program also suffered as a club team in its recruitment of players and the team had just 15 players on its roster last season.
“You get no money, no nothing. You have to pay money out. You’re not going to get a lot of people playing that way,” said Mace.
With plenty of other Premier-level baseball teams, such as the Langley Blaze, in the Lower Mainlaind it was hard to convince athletes to come to Kwantlen.
While both the Eagles and Blaze are self-funded organizations, since 2001, the Blaze have had 26 players drafted by Major League teams. The Eagles have had just two: shortstop Lee Darracott and pitcher Chirs Lemay, both in 2004.
The Eagles did have some success in the early years of the program, including a Canadian College Baseball Conference Championship in 2003, but funding and recruitment difficulties eventually caught up with the team last season. They finished the ’09-’10 season with a 4-20 record and didn’t have a single player hit better than .275 for the season.
Le Brun wrote that “the club was unable to sustain itself financially. Therefore, the club administration made the decision to discontinue its support of the team in April 2010.”
Mace saw the decision a little differently.
“Rob [Webster], the coach, was supposed to get paid but because the school didn’t support it he had to get another job and he just didn’t have time for it. And there were no more guys that wanted to play.”
As the weather warms and the fields dry, the start of baseball season nears for the Kwantlen Eagles. Jessica Rolli provides a words-and-pictures look at this year’s team.
With baseball season approaching, the Kwantlen Eagles are taking steps to ensure a successful season, both on the field and in the stands.
Head coach Rob Webster is hoping to make the games at their home field at Macleod Park in Langley more of an event, and working to create an atmosphere that people will look forward to attending.
â€œGame days will be a blast. The score board will be up and going, weâ€™ll have an announcer for in between innings, and when the players come up to bat, theyâ€™ll have their own music,â€ said Webster.
Webster is also working with the township of Langley to, one day, have a beer garden at the games, and a game-day events coordinator who is planning different activities for the fans.
â€œHopefully, weâ€™ll get to a point where people will say, â€˜Hey I got nothing to do, letâ€™s go check out the Kwantlen game,â€™â€ said Webster.
The team will put on fundraising events that will also be aimed at engaging the community. A pub night has just been approved and is in the works, as well as a raffle where the first prize will be a trip for two to New York to see a Yankees games.
Although a strong fan base is priceless for any sports team, Webster and the team have been working hard to ensure they play a good game for anyone who does come out to watch.
They practice six times a week and are constantly on the look-out for skilled players.
â€œThereâ€™s a ton of talent that has come out of here that have gone on to the big leagues,â€ said Webster, motioning to the posters laced around the diamond, printed with names and MLB logos.
One of the names is Brett Lawrie, who became the highest drafted Canadian, at the young age of 18 last year.
Kwantlenâ€™s recent upgrade to a polytechnic university has helped entice some of the local talent to stick around and play for the Eagles.
â€œNow I can draw from players who want to take a trade and I can offer a solid four-year degree to prospective players,â€ said Webster.
The team’s first regular season game will be a double-header against Vancouver Island University on March 28. An up-to-date schedule of their pre-season games is available online.