Friday, May 22nd, 2020
Local BG baseball alums helping in effort to save program
By Colin Foster
Playing baseball for Bowling Green State University was a dream turned reality for a handful of local players.
Last week's news was a nightmare for them.
On May 15, the university announced that it would be cutting its baseball program effective immediately. The program was scrapped as part of BG's effort to shave $2 million off the department of athletics budget after the coronavirus pandemic. The university said cutting baseball would save $500,000 annually.
Bowling Green State University Director of Athletics Bob Moosbrugger begrudgingly broke the news. It hit close to home for Moosbrugger, a 1990 Celina High School graduate who went on to play for the Falcons.
"I stepped on this campus in August of 1990 with the goal of being a Division I baseball player and an athletic director," said Moosbrugger during last week's press conference. "Never in my dreams did I think I'd accomplish both, and 30 years later have to make this decision.
"This has been an extremely difficult day for the Falcon family," he added. "Unfortunately, it's the people affected by this decision that makes my heart break. Today we discontinued our baseball program and a total of seven staff positions. The reality is BGSU will have approximately a $29 million shortfall, which has made these decisions unavoidable."
Several local BGSU baseball alums feel the same way.
Romie Schwieterman (Coldwater), Eric Stachler (Coldwater), Trent Dues (Coldwater), Todd Dues (Coldwater), Bruce Boley (Celina), Greg Becker (Celina), Neil Schmitz (St. Henry) and Nick Bruns (St. Henry) all played for the Falcons. They were caught off guard by the decision.
"There was definitely a lot of shock and sadness when I first received the word," said Schmitz, an All-Ohio pitcher for St. Henry who later became BG's all-time saves leader from 2001-04. "I played baseball with coach (Dan) Schmitz's (no relation) son, Spencer, and he sent us all a text message and that was very tough to hear. I feel terrible for coach Schmitz, the team and the recruits - I can't even imagine what they are all going through.
"As alumni, we have offered much support - I emailed coach Schmitz a couple of times, and we are making a highlight video of his teams through all 29 of the years he has been the head coach," he added. "On Wednesday, a large group of alumni met at the baseball facility. It was the last day the current players were scheduled to come in and clean up, and we felt that showing our support in numbers to those players and coaches would be good for all of us."
A large group of program alums are stepping up to bat by trying to raise funds to get baseball back in Bowling Green.
"Yesterday, I was on a conference call with over 600 baseball alumni to discuss fundraising over a five-year period," said Schwieterman, an All-Ohioan at Coldwater before playing for BG from 1972-76. "It costs more than $750,000 per year to run the program - we set up a pledge system, and in two days, we raised more than $900,000. Our hope is that we can present a plan to the trustees and the president and they will work with us to help keep the program afloat.
"Just like with everything lately, this decision affects so many individuals and families," Schwieterman continued. "I feel so much for the recruits as well as the players in the program. They picked Bowling Green for a reason and to possibly have to pack up and go somewhere else is disheartening. For us alumni, we were able to have those great experiences, and now it is our turn to try to help - it is really neat to see so many players from all eras join the effort."
The group plans to present their five-year plan to the BG administration today, Stachler said. The alums are hopeful they can save a 102-year-old program.
"It's going to be up to the president, the AD and the board of trustees," said Stachler, who was one of 40 former Falcons on campus Wednesday.
The Bowling Green program dates back to May, 3, 1918, when the team played its inaugural game against Defiance and won 4-3. The program went on to win 12 regular-season conference championships (seven NWOIAA, five Mid-American Conference), six MAC East Division titles and three conference tournament championships. The Falcons have reached the NCAA Tournament on four occasions.
Danny Schmitz is a three-time MAC Coach of the Year and has won seven conference championships. He entered his 30th year as the conference's active leader in all-time wins. Twice under Schmitz's leadership the program won a school-record 36 games (1999 and 2001).
"Coach Schmitz always emphasized the family bond and it definitely trickled down to all of us - we all had a sense of pride, but most important, we made lifelong friends all because of Bowling Green Baseball," Neil Schmitz said.
Bowling Green has had roughly 50 players drafted and an additional 50 sign free-agent contracts. Schwieterman (a free-agent signee with the White Sox in 1976) and Stachler (a 12th-round pick by Houston in 1995) are part of that club. The most famous BG baseball alum is Cy Young winner Orel Hershiser, who pitched for the Falcons from 1977-79 and tossed no-hitter against Kent State on May 4, 1979. He was named 1988 World Series MVP when his Los Angeles Dodgers defeated Oakland in five games.
Stachler was a standout pitcher for the Falcons as well, earning a pair of All-MAC selections. He and Moosbrugger were Legion baseball teammates in their younger days. The two spoke on the phone after the announcement last week.
"I called him last Saturday and he was pretty tore up about it," Stachler said.
Stachler echoed the same sentiments.
"It was like my heart was ripped out," he said. "I went there for two years and it was the best two years of my life."