Since the University of South Dakota’s decision to disband the sanctioned baseball program in 2004, current club members like Sam Parkinson, a sophomore who had offers to play baseball elsewhere, and junior outfielder Trevor Doyle find themselves part of a club baseball team that relies heavily on club president, senior Joe Millar, to manage all aspects of the team.
“I get the schedule put together for the games, schedule practices, manage the budget, buy t-shirts and jerseys, set up fundraising and a lot of other things like that,” Millar said.
According to Millar, the team receives some funding through the university based on what they see fit. The rest comes from various donation projects and raffles the players put together.
Doyle said the efforts put forth by Millar and his predecessors are what have kept the club sport from vanishing all together, while establishing themselves as members of the National Club Baseball Association Mid-America – North Conference. Other members of the conference include the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and Minnesota State University – Mankato.
“We play 16 conference games and about 10 non-conference games,” Millar said. “Also, depending on the weather, we may or may not get some postponed or cancelled altogether.”
Although the club can find competition within the current conference and regular non-conference opponents like Mount Marty in Yankton and Augustana College in Sioux Falls, some players believe it is time USD brought back baseball as a sanctioned sport.
“The rest of the school has already joined the Summit League and developed Division-I athletic programs,” Doyle said. “Maybe it’s time that the baseball program does the same?”
Athletic Director David Herbster said there are a number of issues pertaining to funding, Title IX and interest as to why the university is currently unable to bring baseball back to Vermillion.
Despite the university’s unwillingness to sanction the sport, members of the club team are enjoying the laid back and relaxed nature of a club sport.
“It’s more laid back than I would have guessed from a college program,” Doyle said. “During the spring we play four games a weekend. We go on road trips, get out of Vermillion, hang out with some friends and have some fun.”
Parkinson, who doesn’t oppose the idea of being sanctioned, said he enjoys what the current state of the team has to offer.
“I do like how relaxed it is, although, at times, I do wish it was more competitive,” Parkinson said. “There is a lot of responsibility that is involved when you play a D-I sport compared to a club sport. Right now, I’m appreciating the relaxed atmosphere of the club sport.”
Millar agreed with Doyle and Parkinson on the laid back atmosphere of the club, but also enjoys the flexibility it represents.
“If USD had a sanctioned baseball team then I may not have been able to continue playing baseball,” Millar said. “Kids like me who don’t have the time for the rigorous NCAA practice schedules can continue to play with a club sport.”
Regardless of how the university currently views the necessity to sanction, all players are appreciating their time on the diamond.
“I’ve always enjoyed baseball,” Doyle said. “I know a lot of guys enjoy it because it allows you to get away, relax and take your mind off class.”
After the first seven games of the spring season, four of them being conference games, the USD club baseball team is an under whelming 0-7.
Because of the weather, their scheduled game for April 17 against Mount Marty in Yankton was cancelled.
However, the team hopes to travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa. This weekend to take on the University of Northern Iowa April 20 and 21 with doubleheaders on both days. This marks the second set of conference games for the Coyotes, the first being four games against Iowa State.
The team’s first home conference games are scheduled April 27 against the University of Iowa at Prentis Park with the first game starting at noon and the second at 2 p.m.