One of Cal's Oldest Sports, Baseball Team Dropped Among Cuts

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For years, the Cal baseball team has begged the athletic department to purchase lights for Evans Diamond. That, sadly for the Bears, isn't a problem anymore.

On Tuesday afternoon, it was announced by the university that baseball was among the teams that will be cut from the athletic department, effective beginning in the 2011-12 academic year.

"We were continually told everything was on the table, but you don't expect it," Cal baseball coach David Esquer said. "Pac-10, West Coast, baseball is one of those staple sports. It's at its peak based on College World Series returns and TV coverage. Even acknowledging there were budget problems within the state, you didn't think it would come down to baseball."

"It puts certain sports on higher pedestals than other," added former Cal center fielder and first round MLB Draft pick Brett Jackson. "Cal baseball has never fully gotten the recognition it deserved. Cal baseball did great things for the school, it did great things for the Pac-10."

Esquer learned of the decision late Tuesday morning and he told players shortly before that afternoon's official 2:30 p.m., press conference. For the team, the news was devastating.

"There was shock, disbelief, anger, panic. It was the whole gamut and understandably so," Esquer said. "This is among the most important things in their lives and they chose to come to Cal to do that, and they had the rug pulled out from under them. It's a hard day."

According to the US Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education, Cal baseball had $296,996 in total operating expenses for the 2008-09 year. That breaks down to about $8,700 per player. Women's basketball spent the most that year, topping $92,000 per player, and track spent the least, with about $1,600 for each participant.

The baseball team hasn't posted spectacular postseason records over the past decade. That could have played a role in its abrupt curtailing, considering "opportunities for NCAA and Pac-10 success" was among the factors taken into consideration by the university. Since 2001, the Bears have only made three NCAA tournaments in spite of fielding teams full of future major league talent.

Nonetheless, many assumed the Bears were safe due, in part, to the team's long history, which dates back over 100 years.

During that span, the Bears won two College World Series (1947, 1957) and sent countless players to the majors, among them Jeff Kent and Xavier Nady. This summer, Cal's eight current MLB players tied for the most of any college.

"Some great players that have gone through that baseball program," Stanford baseball coach Mark Marquess said. "It's not a situation where Cal has not been successful. They have been to the postseason two of the last four years and had first round draft picks. They've had a lot of guys sign. It's been a very successful program. It's just hard to believe."

Potential transfers do not lose a year of eligibility per NCAA rules, but Esquer does not expect to see a reduced team.

"We've got a real special group. I think they've committed to seeing this through," Esquer said. "I'd be surprised if many of our players leave because, ironically, we have a team that can contend for the Pac-10 title. We feel good about what our possibilities are, so I don't feel that they feel like moving to a better situation.

"The team they want to play for is right here."

Tags: CAL BASEBALL, DAVID ESQUER, BRETT JACKSON


Contact Katie Dowd at [email protected]



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