It’s a sad day for the Cleveland State baseball program, as the university has decided to cut the program after this season after 79 seasons. The decision was made by the university for budget reasons. According to the article from cleveland.com, this will save CSU about $450,000.
This will not affect the Vikings’ membership in the Horizon League or in NCAA Division I. The Horizon League doesn’t require schools to have a baseball program, and the minimum amount of teams to play in D-I is fourteen.
It is a sad day for fans of college baseball when you see a team pack it up and call it quits. However, there were a few things that made it somewhat difficult to follow Vikings baseball (at least away from the internet.)
The Vikings played at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, which is twenty miles away from Cleveland State. Before the move a few seasons back, CSU played at Pipe Yard Stadium in Lorain, which was thirty-some miles away. Not the easiest trip to make, day in and day out. While playing at Progressive Field would have been nice for the Vikings (and a lot closer), the costs would be through the roof unless the Cleveland Indians and the University could reach a deal. Unlikely? Probably, but still would have been neat to see.
Another reason is the lack of success that the Vikings have had. Cleveland State has failed to record a winning season since 1989, when the Vikings went 24-21. The Green and White got close to winning seasons a few times since then (like going 23-26 in 1993, and 22-24 in 1991.) That is not a knock on anyone who has played or coached, that is just stating the facts right out of the media guide.
Once CSU disbands the baseball program, the Horizon League will only have six teams playing baseball. I once heard that the minimum amount of teams that the conference requires to sponsor a sport was six. Detroit (UDM) was the last university to disband their program in the HL, after the 2004 season for budget reasons. While this makes it possible for teams to play each other twice in a season at each venue again (some schools only see each other once in the regular season), it is the borderline number to keep the sport in the conference. What if someone decides to drop before the 2012 season? Will baseball soon become history in the Horizon League?
As a former Sports Director at Wright State, I have seen the Raiders and Vikings play ball several games. While most have been wins for Wright State, the Vikings have always had some great talent. I remember one Josh Hungerman playing for CSU before becoming a member of the Colorado Rockies farm system. He was a starting pitcher, who would later become the DH for CSU. Currently, Anthony Sambula (see picture) is about to graduate from Cleveland State as a senior and has snagged a few HL Pitcher of the Week awards in 2011.
As a positive for the league, it is nice to see five teams in the league at home and away once again. As a possibility for scheduling, the traveling teams could be the Ohio teams of Wright State and Youngstown State, followed by the Indiana schools of Valparaiso and Butler, then pair up UIC and Milwaukee together for baseball. Another positive is that all the players currently on CSU’s roster will be able to play somewhere else without waiting a year.
Despite no winning seasons since 1989, I will still miss the away gray pinstripes of the Cleveland State Vikings playing at Wright State. I will miss the Vikings taking the diamond at Nischwitz Stadium, wearing the green alternative jerseys with a font that looks like Cincinnati’s (the Bearcats, not the Reds.)
As a closing note, I want to wish everyone in that organization nothing but the best in their futures. You have bright futures ahead, keep your head up and play hard for the last few weeks of 2011.
Sources of information from cleveland.com, csuvikings.com, and baseball-reference.com. Picture from the Horizon League website at horizonleague.org.
Until next time,