April 14, 2023 | SPORTS | By Pierce Sullivan

With gray clouds blocking out the mountains and a brisk wind littering the occasional snowflake, it was decidedly not one of those springtime days where students sprawl out on the quad with hammocks and slacklines. But down at the El Pomar Youth Sports Complex, about a 12-minute drive south of Colorado College, the CC Club Baseball team was hard at work on the field.

I was able to speak with two of the captains of the team this past week, as well as their unofficial coach, and discuss their phoenix-like rise from the ashes of COVID-19.

The pandemic wreaked havoc on student organizations across campus. The two-year hiatus in activity resulted in a lack of continuous leadership, lost traditions, and team culture that has made rebuilding challenging for club sports and other student organizations across the board.

Some groups, however, have seemingly been able to take advantage of this disruption and rebrand and restructure their teams to be more successful and sustainable.

The team undoubtedly falls into the latter category. According to Co-Captain Naomi Pryzant ‘23, “we’ve gotten so much better since [COVID-19]. And that’s not the product of, you know, practicing more or anything, but it’s everybody’s mentality has changed. It’s gone from more of a party team to a loose team still having fun, but now we really want to win.”

The team competes in the DII National Club Baseball Association Rocky Mountain South Division, against schools such as Western Colorado University and Colorado State University-Pueblo, both of which receive significant financial and coaching support from their schools, something the CC team lacks.

What the Tigers lack in resources, however, they make up for with spunk. According to Co-Captain Sammy Heller ‘24, “We’re definitely like, the little dog, you know, like a little feisty.”

Although the team does not have an official coach, this season, they’ve taken on an unofficial mentor. Ben Wirt, who works as an electrician at in the facilities office and serves on the Staff Council, has taken on the role of “Coach Ben” for Tigers Baseball.

Heller recalled Wirt’s introduction to the team, “I just saw him playing catch on the field one day, and I thought he was a student. So, I went to go recruit him. And I was like, oh, we should get this guy [on the team], he can really throw up, but it turned out he was full, full man.”

Heller still invited Wirt to practice, and since then he has become the de facto coach and team leader. “He’s been like the most amazing person ever, he’s like the most beloved guy, and he comes to everything” Heller said.

In conjunction with Wirt, the team is still entirely student-led and run. The team is composed of a wide swath of previous baseball experiences, with some playing competitively their whole lives and others picking up a bat for the first time at CC.

CC Club Baseball is home to a few of the only female-identifying players in collegiate club baseball. Jimmy Henderson, Director of DII NCBA Operations, stated that neither he nor his office is “aware of any other female-identifying players that have played in the NCBA up until this point.”

Pryzant explained that “it’s been a positive experience, everybody on this team has been super supportive. Since the first time I ever came to practice as a freshman, they’ve been just nothing but lovely and amazing, and helpful. They never ever question my place here. So, this has really been an opportunity for me to grow as an athlete and as a person. And it’s been really wonderful.”

This embodies the culture of the team. “Everybody’s here voluntarily. So, everyone’s here because we love playing this game. And we want to have fun playing this game,” Pryzant said.

The players on the CC Club Baseball team love baseball and everything that surrounds the sport. Keller finished our conversation by saying “I have had my fondest moments at CC with the club baseball team.”

Tigers Baseball has a few upcoming games this weekend, playing at 4 p.m. on Friday April 14 at the El Pomar Youth Sports Complex, and Saturday April 15 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Spurgeon Field, both located in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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