The University of Oregon announced on July 13th that they were bringing back baseball to the Eugene school after a 26 year absence. The school ended up dropping the wrestling program and adding competitive cheerleading to the athletic program. The reason that was quoted by the Oregon athletic department to add baseball was that the sport is seeing increased growth across the country.
I believe that this is true in the suburbs but Baseball has seen a major decrease in urban areas. The main reason is the increasing cost in competing on select teams which in some communities start before the age of 12 when a kid in the city of Miami can go play a game of basketball for weeks on end at the playground for 20 bucks with a decent basketball. I would like my readers to drive by a baseball field this weekend and see how many kids are playing on their local Little League field. Also, look at the Little League World Series and see how many African-American kids participated in the final eight. There was a report on Say Hey which is one of the top sports blogs on the internet that only two out of the eight US teams had any African American kids. (Click here for article). The other experiment is to look at a MLB baseball game and see how many players are minorities from United States. You will be surprised with how low it actually is.
The other problem I see with Oregon adding baseball is that the wrestlers at the school now will have to transfer to continue their athletic careers and possibly make the Olympic team. Baseball has been removed from the Olympics starting in 2012 due to the lack of interest in the sport around the world. We did see a very well attended World Port Tournament in Holland this summer with over 3,000 people attending some of Team USA games but we also saw the debacle which was the Pan-American games. During that tournament, we saw multiple delays with the field due to poor drainage and even had the tournament readjusted a day before it started due to insufficient lighting.
The final problem I have with Oregon is that they couldn’t support baseball 26 years ago. What has changed in Eugene to say they can support a Pac-10 team? They currently have no stadium and need to build a brand new facility.
I also think that the Oregon Athletic Department is aiming way too high with the help of Phil Knight for a new head coach. The Oregon Athletic Department has already interviewed Tim Corbin and planned on bringing in Dave Serrano before he backed out. There was some reports on the Internet that Phil Knight had earmarked so much money that whoever took the job would be one of the top five coaches in the nation in terms of salary. Why has Oregon not looked at some of the top assistants on the West Coast instead of a current head coach? How many top head coaches are going to leave a successful place to restart a program which will not have the full usage of scholarships until 2011-2012 season?
I just felt like sharing my thoughts on the situation in Eugene and hope that the Oregon program will be a success but they need to overcome the obstacles I have outlined above.