EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Baseball is officially back at UW-Eau Claire. In a press conference Monday afternoon, UW-Eau Claire officials announced it will be adding baseball, men’s soccer, and women’s lacrosse. The 3 athletic programs are being added as part of an initiative to help grow the university and better retain its students.
A member of the Blugold baseball team from the 1990s holds a bat before a game.
“It just blows my mind that we don’t have it,” Dan Schumacher, UW-Eau Claire Athletic Director, said of the absence of a baseball program.
Well, now you have one. It’s been nearly a quarter century in the making – UW-Eau Claire baseball was cut after the 1995 season.
“I’m a Blugold. I was really disappointed back in ’95 when it ended,” Mark Faanes, head coach of Eau Claire Legion Post 53, said. “I’m tired of sending 5, 6, 8 guys a year to other schools, rather than staying here playing in our hometown.”
Baseball will make its return to the university in the spring of 2021.
“We all know the history of baseball in Eau Claire, and that fits perfectly in where this strategic plan is going," Schumacher said. "That adds about 100 more bodies. We’ll be the largest athletic department in the state, if not the Midwest, with over 820 bodies with 25 sports.”
That’s across all NCAA divisions. According to Schumacher, athletic programs normally have a higher retention rate than other programs on campus. The addition of the 3 sports will only boost that percentage.
“We have a 90% retention rate, and our kids are having a great student-athlete experience,” Schumacher said. “A women’s lacrosse, a men’s soccer, a baseball team – those are all offerings we weren’t able to offer until now.”
Baseball will have a home in the WIAC. Men’s soccer will come to existence in the fall of 2021 and will start as an independent, but will likely join/form a conference like the men’s tennis team did with the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). Schumacher told me women’s lacrosse will be in a conference when the program fires up in the spring of 2021.
At the end of the day, adding the programs will add enthusiasm throughout the Chippewa Valley, especially in the baseball world.
“We have all kinds of leagues around – baseball in this area is just huge; a lot of baseball players, a lot of older baseball players that won’t let go that just love the game,” Dale Varsho, Eau Claire Express’ manager, said. “It’s just an exciting day that the Blugolds have it back.”