Picked Off

Picked Off

By Sheryl McAlister

It was a short text from a friend and fellow baseball lover yesterday afternoon: “Furman just cut its baseball program.”

Who says there’s no crying in baseball?

In the immortal line from the iconic scene from the best baseball movie ever …. Tom Hanks’ character Jimmy Dugan uttered the words during the 1992 classic “A League of Their Own.”I don’t know why I felt such a punch in the gut with the news, but apparently I wasn’t alone.

Social media was abuzz from coaches and players across the Palmetto State, heartbroken over the news that Furman University would cut its baseball program, a sport played at the school since 1896. It made no difference that the school offered to make the players whole with scholarships or help them with a transfer. They wanted to play at Furman.

The news blindsided everybody.

I lived in Greenville, SC, in the mid to late ‘80s, and fell hard for Furman University. I was a football fan in particular, and that program won 3 Southern Conference championships during that time.

It was not difficult to fall for a school that, although named for a Baptist preacher, boasted the classic cheer made popular by the late Furman president John Johns: F.U. one time. F.U. two times. F.U. three times. F.U. all the time!

In the school’s news release yesterday, Furman cited the decision to cut baseball, among other things, in order to save millions of dollars over several years and “… allow our remaining 18 athletic programs to be competitive.” Basically sacrificing the few for the many.

The release went on to say the university was well down the road of making changes, and the global crisis simply accelerated the plans. In other words, baseball at Furman was likely doomed anyway. COVID-19 was the final nail in the coffin.

I can appreciate the complex decisions universities and the entire education system in this country are facing in this current crisis. To those who don’t love the game of baseball, this outrage might seem trivial. To business people, the decision an easy solution. In the grand scheme of things, maybe they’re right.

But to those of us who love baseball… The lessons the game teaches about life. The sounds and smells of the ballpark on a summer night… For the Paladins to say good-bye to those traditions after more than a century is frankly hard to fathom.

There’s no crying in baseball, Jimmy Dugan?

Well, today, there is.

© Copyright Sheryl McAlister


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