By Christie Melhorn, April 6 2018 —
As the semester wraps up, so too do most Dinos athletics seasons. However, some campus sports, such as the men’s baseball squad, are only just beginning their seasons.
The Dinos baseball team started in the early 2000s as a men’s league open to the public. While attending Mount Royal University in 2006, current head coach Geoff Freeborn played on the team before joining the Vipers — a Calgary professional league that disbanded in 2011. Freeborn has coached for the Dinos on and off over the years and was promoted to head coach three weeks ago.
“The program has never quite been what it could be. We’ve been last in the conference for in the past 10 years but we’re working on that,” Freeborn said. “I want to be apart of the change of the program.”
The baseball team is a club sport but the Dinos athletic department runs their administration and funds travel expenses. But unlike a varsity sport, players must pay to compete. It also operates outside of the Canada West conference — the team is currently part of the Canada College Baseball Conference (CCBC), which is comprised of the Dinos and five other Western Canada varsity teams.
Freeborn says part of the Dinos struggle to excel is due to Calgary’s erratic weather patterns but he sees this as a source of motivation for the team.
“The baseball team hasn’t had great success in its time. We’re often stuck indoors and are a little bit behind some other schools,” Freeborn said. “You can only work on so many things [indoors] and hop in the cage so many times. But it also builds a strong work ethic. It forces [the players] to work a little harder — and they do.”
Proving Freeborn’s point, third-year pitcher Taylor Roberge says he plans to sharpen his competitive edge this season and that Freeborn’s coaching style has already helped.
“Last year, I struggled a lot but I want to bounce back. From my first year, the coaching staff has improved immensely,” Roberge said. “With better coaching this year, there’s been a complete turn around. It’s been one of the best experiences I’ve had.”
Echoing Roberge, first and third baseman Cameron Williams — the team’s only senior player — says this season holds fresh beginnings and that he wants to maintain his strong leadership role on the team.
“Over the years we’ve had some good players but not a lot of depth. But with better recruiting, we’ve been able to fill some of those roles,” Williams said. “In any sport, there’s so much that goes on off-field that coaches don’t see. The quality of a leadership core can make a good team into bad team really quickly. I like to be a solid bridge between players and coaches.”
Williams adds that the team’s culture is particularly positive this year and that he even postponed graduating from the kinesiology program to continue playing.
“I’ve been on teams in the past where people aren’t close and there’s always one or two outsiders. But this year, everyone is really cohesive. We trust each other to do the right thing on and off the field,” he said. “I planned since my first year to graduate in four but I worked my remaining classes around graduating in December to stay on.”
This year, Freeborn hopes to translate the team’s passion and commitment into a higher position in the standings. However, his top priority is ensuring that the players have a meaningful and memorable experience.
“My personal goal is to bump us up to at least fifth or fourth place. We don’t have to be first but I want to pull us up. I want to keep growing the program and give the guys the opportunity to play at higher levels like in the [Western National Baseball League],” he said. “At the end of the day though, we want to ensure they’re getting a good education and have a great experience.”
A large part of achieving this is attracting a larger fanbase.
“I’d love to see that stadium filled. It’s always great playing for the parents but we’d love to play in front of a crowd and get the U of C baseball team recognized.”
Low student attendance at varsity games is a prevailing issue at U of C, as balancing academics with other life responsibilities makes it difficult to attend games. However, with the semester concluding on April 26, this spring is an ideal time to support the Dinos. Their next home game is on April 14 against the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs at the Foothills Stadium. Times are yet to be determined and spectators can attend for free. For the men’s baseball team’s full schedule, click here.