By Artoor Minas
Members of the UC Santa Cruz Men’s Baseball Team pile into a van and drive for thirty minutes. However, it is not a trip to Monterey or San Jose; they are going to their home game.
In recent years, the team has experienced major growth, not only from a rise in player interest, but on an administrative level.
However, the team’s evolution has been hindered by unclear field issues that create uncertainty over where the Slugs can play their home games. Since joining the National Club Baseball Association (NCBA) five years ago, the Slugs have successfully been assimilated into an organized league with set brackets and conferences. The Slugs’ bracket, which includes UC Merced, Humboldt State and UC Davis, has given the Slugs the opportunity to compete in a legitimate, coordinated association.
The validity gained by the grassroots movement that is club baseball has helped the Slugs play a large role in the ever-expanding athletics program on campus. Kevin “Skippy” Givens, UCSC Intramural and Sports Club supervisor, has noticed increasing enthusiasm about athletics among students.
“It is not surprising to see high-quality baseball players here at UCSC,” Givens said. “The NCBA has given Santa Cruz baseball validity. Kids are starting to come to UCSC to play baseball.”
Co-captain and fourth-year player Ian Stewart echoed Skippy’s words.
“There is depth like we’ve never had before,” he said. “Four years ago, it was difficult to get 10 or 12 guys together to scrimmage. That’s not the case anymore.”
One of the most important benefits the NCBA grants the UCSC Men’s Baseball Team is on-field insurance coverage, which is especially important to the poorly funded UCSC athletic organization.
Because there is no baseball field on the campus, the Slugs practice at the East Field and held this year’s regular season home games at Watsonville High, which is approximately 20 to 30 minutes away from campus. Third-year team member Justin Wiley says that, despite the growth of the organization, the lack of practicing on a baseball field has made it difficult for the team to adjust during game time.
“Conditioning in an environment different than where we actually play is difficult,” Wiley said. “Building a baseball field on the Lower East Field would be a perfect location for a long-term plan.”
Although a baseball diamond on the Lower East Field would be ideal for the team, the likelihood of one in the near future appears to be slim.
“Unfortunately, there is not enough money from the state for a baseball diamond,” Skippy said. “Other needs are much more compelling [like soccer]. We need to work with what we have.”
Despite the grim forecast for a baseball field appearing on the UCSC campus anytime soon, Skippy says there is hope in form of a nearby field. Harvey West Field is in a city-operated park that is available to any individual or organization to use for a nominal fee, and is in walking distance of campus.
“Harvey West is a natural home field for us to use,” Skippy said. “The field is only a short walk down the hill from Stevenson.”
Ryan Layne, third-year infielder, says Harvey West would give the baseball program potential for success in performing well at games and attracting a fan base.
“All the guys would love to play at Harvey West,” Layne said. “By playing there, we would be able bring in our family and fans.”
Easier said than done.
This year, field access for the Slugs at Harvey West has been difficult due to insurance conflicts between the language written on the NCBA insurance clause and the city’s requirements for accepting outside insurance policies.
Because of this friction, the team has had to play at Watsonville High instead of closer to home.
“Second- or first-year players don’t even know what the feeling of a home game is,” Layne said, referring to the Harvey West conflict that was settled a few years ago.
Last year, the team had the green light to play at Harvey West, but consistent rainfall caused many game cancellations. This season, the struggle between the city and the team was resurrected.
The language that is required by the city in an insurance policy, with regard to use of city facilities, involves a cancellation clause. This clause allows the city to require notification ten days in advance before the policy’s renewal date.
Thus, it is a prerequisite set by the city that the NCBA cancel via formal notification to the City.
City Superintendent Carol Schurich feels the city’s requirements are more than fair and reasonable.
“We ask the same requirement from UCSC, Cabrillo College and Little League, anyone using our facilities,” Schurich said. “If anybody wants to use our field, that’s what they’re there for.”
A year ago, the NCBA agreed to attach an addendum to match the language of the city requirement. However, renewal of insurance is required each year.
According to Schurich, the insurance clause that came in this year was changed, making the city unable to comply once again.
“The city won’t accept our insurance unless [the clause] is blacked out,” head coach Christopher Connor said. “We have insurance. It is just one sentence that the city won’t comply with.”
Without NCBA insurance coverage accepted by the city standards, the team must purchase the city’s insurance at an additional cost of $200 per event. For the team to have a consistent home field, the city and NCBA must be on the same page.
Although the team continues to grow and improve, most of the players would agree that the field conflict does affect how the team plays.
“Our potential will be reached if we are unified with a central location close to campus,” Wiley said. “Having that support will bring us great energy.”
According to Connor, the conflict the Slugs face is only a small problem in the context of a larger problem at UCSC.
“UCSC needs a strong athletic program to improve the university standing and needs,” Connor said. “You can’t build one without the other.”
First baseman Deny Delgadillo feels that with an expanding athletic program, it is essential to alert the student body and the university of the need for support on campus.
“We need to spread awareness through OPERS [Office of P.E. Recreation and Sports],” Delgadillo said. “We should do more as a team to meet our needs.”
The team is hoping to return to the comfortable environment they had when Harvey West was their home base. Rather than driving 30 minutes to a home game, they wish to drive toward a bright future with an energetic fan base.
“I thank all the students who support the baseball team,” Connor said. “Hopefully in the future, it will be a spectator sport, because it deserves to be.”