Two of the things I care for most deeply are Syracuse athletics and college baseball--as I was born and raised in the Syracuse area, and currently work as a manager for the Austin Peay State University baseball program. A lot of the things I do for Austin Peay are just thankless grunt jobs (field work, handling equipment, etc.), but I've also been exposed at least in part to the world of college baseball.
Some background on Austin Peay baseball as I'm sure very few of you have even heard of that school: We're a four-year public school in Middle Tennessee, and compete in the Ohio Valley Conference. My governors have won the OVC the last three years in baseball and have established ourselves as a powerhouse mid-major baseball program. Unfortunately we haven't been able to get out of a regional (Georgia Tech 2011, Oregon 2012, Indiana 2013), but we have reached the championship round the last two years. Our facilities are decent. Simple locker room, shared athletic training room and weight room facilities with all other sports, and (of course I'm biased since I'm one of a few that keep the grounds) an above-average playing surface as far as mid major baseball teams go. There are 14 former governors competing in professional baseball after this years record class of 5 draftees joined their teams. 3 are currently in the Majors (AJ Ellis LAD, Matt Reynolds AZ, Shawn Kelley NYY).
The reason why I am giving all of this information is to show the immense parity that exists in College Baseball. When we travel to a place like Tennessee, Mississipi State, Ohio State, etc. (I've been very fortunate to travel everywhere with them even though I seriously do almost nothing on the road) we always have a legitimate chance to beat these schools who obviously have much more funding to their baseball programs than we do.
The article that was written by Apregs a few days ago was well done, and I'd like to add my 2 cents to a few of the concerns that people in the comments had, which are all things that are brought up every time orange fans consider baseball.
The Climate in CNY
Believe me, I fully understand this concern. I grew up there. I shoveled the driveway every day for six months. This really, truly does not matter so long as they can build or adapt a current structure adequate for practicing and developing players during the later parts of fall practice which runs during October and November. Some things that would be necessary:
- A bullpen/workout area to accommodate all the needs of pitchers to develop their arms moving towards the season. It would be advisable to have a space big enough for them to play Long-toss as this is usually a part of every throwing program.
- A mock infield to take ground balls, practice PFP's, bunt plays, 1st and 3rds, etc.
- Preferably a dedicated batting cage up at all times so players can get their hitting in at any time of the day; at Austin Peay a lot of guys like to do this at night after practice, during the day inbetween classes, etc. We have a very simple indoor hitting facility but it works for our guys and it is heated and air conditioned so there is no time of year that it isn't nice to be in.
As other people have pointed out, Syracuse would be hitting the road early and often at the start of the season, which usually begins around February 15th. Take a look at our schedule, we hosted almost entirely northern teams in the beginning of the year: http://www.apsugovernors.com/SportSelect.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=16900&SPID=10129&SPSID=85695
This isn't just common, it's the way it is. Northern college baseball programs do exist and they all do this.
Where would they play home games?
This is the most perplexing of the issues at hand I'd say. There are a couple different realistic options:
- P&C/Alliance Bank/whateverthehell its called now stadium. Several teams do this including Creighton, who plays at that beautiful park and home of the college world series you saw a picture of in the original article.
- Building a park. The smartest way to do this would be artificial field turf like almost all major Northern Schools have now. This is expensive, at around $750,000, but it requires very little maintenance and lasts for a long time. This is also good because they drain very well and you can plow snow off of them so we could get home games, practices and intersquads in despite turbulent weather. I wouldn't recommend a real-grass playing surface for Syracuse because a respectable surface requires expensive materials for everyday upkeep, yearly to biyearly major overhauls of the Mound, plate and infield dirt areas, and of course lots of labor. It would also be a significantly later date for a home opener and obviously they'd like that to be as early as possible. For reference, Ohio State was able to open at home one month into the season on March 15th this last year. That leaves much of march, and all of april and may for home games before postseason play begins around memorial day.
College baseball parks vary greatly from place to place but there are some school with much smaller athletic budgets than Syracuse who pull off a solid baseball atmosphere. I'm a big fan of what Western Kentucky has built, and they're in the Sun Belt. I'd also like to note that off-campus facilities are fairly common.
I think Syracuse could, in less than a decade, become a competitive baseball school. Case in point, the Oregon Ducks. Their program arose from a 20+ year nap in 2009 and has hosted regionals the last two years (aka they were a top-16 team)