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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

We Have A Baseball Team!

Believe it or not, UMass Boston does have a baseball team. Hidden by the fact that there is no baseball field on campus, UMass has a great program, an outstanding coach, and great players. I had the opportunity to meet with coach Mark Bettencourt and get a better idea of the team’s last season, their upcoming season, and what UMass baseball is really all about.

The Beacons are coming off the worst season the team has had since coach Bettencourt has been here, with a record of 6-23. It boggles the mind how a team, who had their best season ever two years ago with a 21-16 record and a win against UMass Dartmouth, and who were ranked in the top 25 of the nation for Division III baseball, could go downhill so fast. After spending some time talking to the coach, however, the puzzling poor season seems to be more a reflection of how many walls are put in front of great players, who in turn struggle all year long to tear them down.

UMass Boston plays some of the toughest teams in Division III baseball, and four of these teams are in their conference. “A lot of these Division III teams are factories for Major League Baseball” said Bettencourt. In the Little East Conference, which UMB is a part of, there is Eastern Connecticut, a school that is ranked number one in the nation for Division III schools. There is also Southern Maine, ranked in the top 10, UMass Dartmouth, ranked in the top 25, and Keene State, a team that recently came down from Division II. And unlike most teams, UMass doesn’t have its own baseball field.

“Last year’s downfall can be attributed to a lot of awful weather. We’re not making any excuses, but for all fairness, we didn’t get to play eleven games against teams which we usually have a fair record against,” stated Bettencourt.

UMB is especially susceptible to bad weahter. When other teams have rainouts they can reschedule games because they have the luxury of their own field. For the Beacons, however, a rainout means having to find another field, and possibly getting their game bumped if that field is needed by the team it belongs to. A very complicated and unfair situation for a team to deal with every single season.

As the coach and I discussed the problems which come with not having a field, he said, “Sometimes we just have to search for a field to practice on when there’s nothing available…But my dream is that someday we will get a place to call home. The guys will be able to change in the locker room and walk right out onto their field.”

Despite all the hurdles, the team looks like it is on the same winning path as it was in 2002. “This was our best recruiting season ever,” said Bettencourt. “We look for a certain type of person, someone who doesn’t make excuses and feel sorry for himself. We have lots of hardships here and a small base of fan support due to the lack of a field.”

Like the general student body, UMass sports players are generally from working class backgrounds and not only take classes but also have jobs and families. The baseball players work on their game year round, play fall baseball, work out in the gym during the winter, and then come back for the spring season.

The players here at UMass deserve a great amount of respect as they play for the love of the game and remain dedicated every season, despite adversity. The coach mentioned to me that several years ago the notion of dropping the baseball team from the athletics program was discussed and when the coach asked the players how they felt about such an idea, every single player wrote a letter about what the team meant to them. “The players’ character is what I am most proud of. Life lessons and life skills are learned out here and this program has turned out great people.”

The team will travel to Fort Myers on Friday for their annual spring training trip where they will play teams from all over the country. We can’t expect anyone to travel to Florida to watch the Beacons play, but maybe we’ll see some fans when they play over at Tufts, Northeastern, or whatever local field they can secure for their games. The team’s schedule can be found at www.athletics.umb.edu/mens/baseb/index.htm.