Renegades baseball ready for new season

By JeffGraveline

After months of winter waiting, baseball season has finally arrived in Chicago. The weather is warm enough for teams across the city to take to the fields and dugouts to play America’s pastime once again. Even here at Columbia, the Renegades men’s baseball team picked up its bats and gloves, ready to begin the new season.

Since the beginning of the spring semester, the baseball team has been busy working out at the 731 S. Plymouth Court fitness facility. Often coming in groups of three to five members, the team has built a strong foundation for the upcoming season, said Mark Brticevich, coordinator of Fitness, Athletics and Recreation at Columbia.

The offseason has become a thing of the past, as the Renegades are ready for their first game against Ball State University on March 20. Team captain Dan Gallagher said the team is ready to compete.

“We’re definitely going to be better than last year,” Gallagher said. “I think we got more practice in and we picked up a couple guys at the right positions. Last year, we had a lot of arm issues, we weren’t prepared for the season. This year, I think we’re a little bit better prepared and hopefully the arms will hold up.”

With 18 players from Columbia, the baseball club will travel across the Midwest to play. The Renegades will make their home debut in April at their new home field against Illinois State University.

After years of playing on University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus, the club was forced to move due to monetary constraints.

“UIC was just too expensive; they knew they had everybody down here,” Brticevich said. “There aren’t too many fields in the downtown Chicago area and I think they kind of took advantage of the situation.”

However, the move has resulted in the club being able to host games at Standard Bank Stadium, 14011 S. Kenton Ave., Crestwood, Ill.  The stadium is home to the Windy City Thunderbolts, a minor league team that plays in the Frontier League.

“It’s a really nice stadium and it’s actually fairly cheap [to play there],” Gallagher said. “UIC basically left us with no choice, so we went out looking and it’s actually cheaper than UIC last year.”

There are disadvantages the Renegades will face as a club team. While they will play other club teams from different universities and colleges, other schools use their club teams as feeder or rehabilitation programs for their official teams.

“That’s something that students have to understand, we’re only club sports,” Brticevich said. “But everybody else that is playing club sports that we’re going up against, these kids are dedicated as if they are NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association]. They may be not at that level of talent, but they have that level of drive.”

Another issue facing the Renegades is funding. Because the team is only on the club level, it is not fully financially supported by the school. Team members must provide their own equipment and transportation to and from games. The team does so through fundraisers and paying directly out of pocket.

However, the factors that face the Renegades on the field are their main concern. With expectations on the team running high, Gallagher and Brticevich are both expecting the team to meet the new season’s challenges head on.

“Like anything, I want them to be competitive,” Brticevich said. “I want them to make a good showing of themselves, to play sound baseball, to try not to give away  don’t expect them to win every game under the sun, as long as they don’t get blown out. They dignify themselves well if they do those types of things. To me, that’s a winning season.”