For the love of the game

Whether it’s at the field or in Davies gym, when the SIU men’s club baseball team is together, all that matters is baseball.

The SIU club baseball team is a student-run and coached team with 22 players this year. Similar to the SIU National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s baseball team, the SIU club team also is part of a top-tier baseball league.

The club Salukis compete in the National Club Baseball Association. NCBA was founded in 2000 and is a league that governs club baseball at colleges throughout the U.S. where the school doesn’t completely sponsor teams’ expenses.

The NCBA is separated into two divisions which is based on school enrollment size. The club Salukis play in Division II and play divisional games against schools such as Missouri State University, University of Illinois and Bradley University.

NCBA teams are formed either because the school cannot afford to fund an NCAA varsity baseball team or some schools form teams because they have so much demand for another baseball team. The Salukis are fortunate to fall under the category where baseball is in demand.

Kyle Miller, a freshmen studying electrical engineering fields a ground ball Tuesday at (name of field, working on finding). The baseball RSO is 3-0 after sweeping Indiana State and will welcome Murray State this weekend for a three game series. Jon-Erik Bradford-Weekender

Kyle Miller, a freshmen studying electrical engineering fields a ground ball Tuesday at practice. The baseball RSO is 3-0 after sweeping Indiana State and will welcome Murray State this weekend for a three game series. Jon-Erik Bradford-Weekender

Kyle Miller, a freshman from Murphysboro studying recreation, said baseball is popular in Carbondale because of the players that attend SIU.

“It’s so popular throughout southern Illinois and most of the kids are from somewhere that baseball is really popular,” he said. “Baseball, where they come from is such a big deal in the environment and they came with the love of baseball and that transfers to everyone else.”

The team also has a rich history of success.

In both the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Salukis finished in the top 10 in the nation. In 2009 the team won 11 games and finished sixth in the nation. The team then followed the 2009 season with a 16-win campaign in 2010 and finished third in the nation.

Although the club team does not get as much media coverage as the NCAA team, the club team president doesn’t seem to mind.

Michael Ingram, a senior from Richmond, Ind. studying marketing, has been on both SIU baseball teams and said there shouldn’t be a comparison between the two.

“I’ve been on both sides of the coin, and I think we do a good job of differentiating ourselves from the division I program,” he said. “The SIU team is an outstanding program and coach Henderson is an awesome coach, but it’s just different. We do this so that kids can compete and travel and we want to give them a good opportunity to do all that, “ he said.

Miller said club baseball is more about just playing the game and less about statistics.

Miller has played baseball nearly his entire life and he said baseball should be about the game and not about coverage or press.

“I always thought that if you love the game enough it shouldn’t matter who comes to watch,” he said. “The game should be about passion no matter who is out there.”

The team’s bills are paid through a series of ways. The players have to pay an annual fee of $150 and like other Registered Student Organizations are partially funded through proposals. The team hosted a tournament in the fall that featured six teams and raised $5000 toward club dues. With the fees paid by the player, they receive two hats, two jerseys with their name on it, one pullover and practice equipment. The hotel and bus costs are also included in the player dues.

Ingram said he makes sure fees are low and that players get everything they can out of their money.

“(The majority of our money is allocated through player dues and fundraisers,” he said. “We also had a big tournament this year that offset a bunch of the costs in the spring. Some schools pay nearly $1000 for club sports, so I think that we are very lucky here.”

Christian Cocokios, a freshman from Tinley Park studying recreation, said he has been pleased with how Ingram has handled the teams’ finances.

“Michael is great with handling our money, we got a bunch of great gear with our names on them and we get to stay at hotels,” he said. “We are always getting new gear and everything is basically paid for besides our gas. I am happy with how our money is managed.”

Weather permitting, the club Salukis are scheduled to play 26 games this season and will travel to five different cities for games against Murray State University, University of Arkansas, Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville, University of Illinois and DePaul University.

After the regular season is finished, the Salukis will compete in the NCBA district regionals which determines who is eligible to play in the NCBA Division II World Series tournament. This year the games are May 17 to May 21 at Brooks Field in Paducah, Ky. Last year the Hofstra University Pride won and this year Ingram said the Salukis are looking to sneak into the playoffs.

“These last couple years I was aware of how good we have been and I see no reason why we can’t get in,” he said. “This year we are infinitely better than last year, we have a few transfers who can swing well and strong arms that can take over games for you. I am confident that we have a good shot at making the tournament.”

The SIU club baseball team starts the season March 24 in Kentucky against Murray State University.

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