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Bowling Green reinstates baseball program after major fundraising push, will seek to rebuild quickly

With over $1.5M raised in a matter of weeks, the baseball team finds itself on solid ground after nearly getting the axe.

Kenneth Bailey

There will be baseball at Bowling Green University in 2021.

Thanks to swift action taken by a large number of BGSU alumni, including former World Series champion Orel Hershiser and big leaguer Burke Badenhop, fundraising efforts have raised more than $1.5 million to keep baseball around for at least the next three years.

Bowling Green became the first Division I school to drop baseball in an effort to cut $2 million from their athletic budget due to effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, athletic director Bob Moosbrugger, a BGSU baseball alum himself, proclaimed dropping baseball would save the school approximately $500,000 annually.

“After very positive and productive dialogue with alumni and former student-athletes nationwide, Bowling Green State University is pleased to reinstate its baseball program effective immediately,” a statement from the university announced.

“BGSU is grateful for its alumni and friends who have stepped up during this difficult time to ensure their alma mater is positioned to thrive on the other side of the current COVID-19 crisis. We are inspired by the efforts of our baseball alumni, and we look forward to continuing to cultivate and reinvigorate all BGSU alumni. We are excited for Opening Day in the spring.”

“I’m glad that BGSU baseball is back,” Moosbrugger explained in a virtual press conference held on Wednesday morning. “However, the work continues. I knew it had to happen quickly. I was concerned whether or not it would become reality.”

The next step towards a 2021 season is putting a roster back together.

Head coach Danny Schmitz is out as head coach after leading the Falcons for the last 30 years. The three-time MAC Coach of the Year (1994, ‘95, 2009) compiled a 717-786-5 record in Bowling Green, winning four regular season MAC titles and appearing in three NCAA tournaments along the way.

Schmitz will continue to remain on staff in an advisory capacity to “cultivate alumni relationships.”

In the meantime, assistant coach Kyle Hallock has been named the interim head coach. A Sandusky, Ohio native, Hallock was an All-American pitcher at Kent State and pitched professionally with the Houston Astros organization as a 10th-round draft pick back in 2011.

As for the current roster, every player from the 2019 team has entered the transfer portal since the original announcement of the program’s dissolution was made back on May 15.

Outfielder Jake Wilson left the program before Bowling Green announced they were cutting baseball, transferring to Liberty University for his final year of eligibility. Wilson ended his tenure in Bowling Green as a two-time MAC All-Defensive team honoree and led the Falcons in hits (54) in 2019.

Catcher Nick Neibauer (Miami University), right-handed pitcher Jeremy Spezia (Grand Valley State), infielder Trent Farquhar (Michigan State), left-handed pitcher Jay Ward (UTSA), and LHP Mason Kolean (Connecticut) have all transferred and committed to other schools since the announcement.

As for the rest of the roster, those still in the transfer portal are allowed to return to school without any eligibility penalties, and Moosbrugger hopes they can see that the school is dedicated to the program and happy to welcome them back with open arms.

There’s also the bigger issue of providing a stable framework to keep baseball on campus past the current three-year window allowed with ongoing fundraising dollars.

Donors were asked to make a three-year commitment to allow for time to implement larger relief efforts. As part of the re-introduction of baseball into BGSU’s athletic folder, the school will only be responsible for providing scholarship monies, meaning the raised funds will have to account for the rest of the budget moving forward— at least in the short term.

The program is hoping its potential success and support can earn them a concrete financial commitment from the university to grow the program and return BGSU baseball back to being a perennial MAC contender. The Falcons were 2-11 this year before Covid-19 prematurely ended the season and haven’t had a winning season since 2010.

But all that worry is down the road. For now, baseball is back and Bowling Green players have a diamond to return to in 2021, a triumph which felt impossible to achieve nearly three weeks ago.

The return of Bowling Green baseball is not just great news for the university, but all of college baseball. Days after BGSU announced they would be eliminating baseball, Furman University became the second D-I program to do so. Hopefully, the return of Falcons baseball can provide a path for Furman to return in 2021, as well.

In a time where Major League Baseball has reduced the 2020 draft from 40 rounds to five rounds (expected to be 20 rounds beginning next year) and is set to reduce its minor league system by 40 teams, it’s important for colleges and universities to provide athletes an opportunity to continue playing baseball.

The last thing we need is less baseball. You never know when that 17th round draft pick out of Bowling Green will develop into a three-time All-Star, Cy Young winner, and World Series champion.