As Northern Kentucky University’s varsity baseball team is awaiting for its season to begin, another NKU baseball team is already in action.
Many NKU students are not aware that the varsity team is not the only baseball team on campus. There is another team that also wears the black and gold who play America’s pastime: Norse Baseball Club.
The club team is a completely student-run team and coached by player-manager/team president, Ryan Shields. Shields, a sophomore pre-pharmacy major, not only takes care of lineups, but is also the starting outfielder on the team. Shields’ other responsibilities as team president include holding tryouts, collecting team fees, purchasing uniforms and providing a playing field and umpire crew.
Unlike NKU’s varsity team, the members of the club team are not NCAA athletes. They are required to pay a fee of $100 for uniforms, field rentals and umpires.
“Being on the team really puts responsibility into the students,” Shields said.
Senior first baseman Michael Piccola not only plays on the team, but he is the treasurer and believes that it is good experience for him.
“Being the treasurer of the club team has helped me develop my leadership skills that will help me with my future career,” said Piccola. “It’s the best thing I have done while at NKU.”
The Norse Baseball Club is not permitted to use the varsity team’s field, so they practice and play at other local venues. Last season, their home field was at Holy Cross High School’s Meinken Field in Covington, Ky.
The team competes in the National Club Baseball Association’s District V East Division. The division consists of Ohio State, the University of Kentucky, Indiana State and Wright State. The games must be within driving distance because a three-game series is played every weekend, featuring a doubleheader on Saturday and one game on Sunday.
Shields said that the biggest difference between the varsity and club teams is the skill level.
“In club, the fastest pitch you will see is 85 (miles per hour), where the varsity guys will consistently see pitches in the 90s,” Shields said.
Brandon Wood, a junior third baseman for NKU’s varsity team, agrees that skill level is the biggest difference between the two teams. “The dedication for the NKU team is huge,” Wood said. “We spend rigorous hours practicing and in the weight room, and just spend a lot of time trying to perfect our craft.”
Last season, the team finished with a .500 winning percentage and missed the playoffs by two games. This season, the team has started out posting a 5-2 record.
“We had a great season and barely missed the playoffs,” said Thomas Towles, former club team starting pitcher. “It was still fun though, being around a bunch of guys who truly have a passion for the game.”
Both the varsity and club teams have aspirations to play in their respected leagues’ World Series. Although the club team only practices once a week, Shields believes his team has a shot at bringing home the trophy.
“We’re a work in progress,” Shields said. “I just tell them to go out and play baseball.”