Starting in the spring of 2013, Union residents will have the opportunity to enjoy live college baseball in their home county.
The University of South Carolina Union will become a member of the National Club Baseball Association (NCBA), meaning the university will have its own baseball team.
Club teams are different from varsity teams in that the school doesn’t completely sponsor the teams’ expenses and the teams are not eligible to play in the NCAA’s College World Series. Teams will have an opportunity, however, to play in the NCBA World Series, and club baseball players are scouted by both professional and varsity baseball teams.
“USC Union is always looking for ways to improve student life on the campus,” stated USC Union Interim Dean Stephen Lowe. “Along with the other changes that have taken place in the past year or so, club baseball promises to add value to the experience of being a student at USC Union, whether as a player or as a spectator.”
The NCBA was founded in 2000 by Sandy Sanderson — a former player and president of the Penn State club baseball team who currently serves as NCBA league president. The NCBA is the fastest growing intercollegiate baseball league in the United States. The league provides more than 4,500 college students with the chance to continue their competitive baseball careers and contend for a true national championship.
“We are excited for the founders and future players of the USC Union club baseball team,” Sanderson said. “We look forward to having them as a member of the National Club Baseball Association.”
The USC Union team will be placed in the District IV East Division. Other teams in the District IV East Division are Craven Community College, Duke University, Davidson College, East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina Wilmington. USC Union will play approximately 15 regular season games, with a chance at post season play, and the NCBA National Championship.
The team will play all home games at the Timken Sports Complex, although a practice field has not yet been determined. USC Union Admissions Recruiter Paul Wilkes will serve as the team’s head coach.
“I’m excited for the university, Union County, the students and for the opportunity to coach the first club baseball team at USC Union,” Wilkes said. “I will be hitting the recruiting trail hard this spring and summer, looking for players to field a team for the Spring 2013 season. I look forward to great success in the future.”
He will be present at all UCHS home games, and he will attend at least one game played by each of the 19 high schools from which USC Union already recruits students. He said he has already contacted the coaches at those schools, and they have been receptive and willing to help build the program. Wilkes also intends to enlist the help of Doug Angeli — a former Major League Baseball player who gives private baseball instruction in Spartanburg.
Wilkes — a former Timken Sports Complex assistant director — served as an assistant coach at Sims during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years, Dixie Boys coach in 2008 and 13-year-old all-star team coach in 2008. During his high school career, Wilkes played with the Union High School baseball team for five years after being recruited for the JV team while in eighth grade. He also played one year of college baseball for The Citadel. Wilkes currently has 10 years experience playing with the Community All-Star Baseball League.
Wilkes said he has already created a rapport with many of the young baseball players in Union County through his past coaching experience.
“A lot of the kids I coached in Dixie Boys or at Sims are the same kids I will recruit to play club baseball,” he said.
Wilkes said there is no eligibility time clock in the NCBA, but students must be enrolled in at least nine credit hours and retain a GPA of 2.0.
“The team would be perfect for students who come here to establish their GPA or because the campus is close to home and less expensive,” he said. “Also, some students may not be highly recruited. If they need more playing time in order to get bigger, faster or stronger, this would be the place.”
Wilkes said he hopes a sports team at USC Union will help unite the student body and create a newfound school spirit on campus, as well as in the community.
USC Union has not yet decided on a mascot for the club baseball team. There will be a student voting poll held on Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the Main Building’s student lounge from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. All USC Union students and concurrent students will have the opportunity to cast their vote to name the club baseball mascot. All students will be asked to show their Carolina Card to vote.