Baseball team cleared


(File photo by Megan Cherniak)

Wilfrid Laurier University’s men’s baseball team was given an ultimatum — present an apology to the school, or face being banned for the entirety of their season.

When Sunday night came, 34 players stood in front of athletic director Peter Baxter, interuniversity sport coordinator Wally Gabler and vice president of Student Affairs David McMurray to plead their case.

It was announced Monday afternoon that the team would be allowed to continue playing.

“For me it’s been tough,” co-captain Ian Fillion said Monday. “I’m obviously regretful for my actions and I apologize for them. Being a co-captain it’s my responsibility to make sure the team operates in a respectful manner and I apologize that that did not happen.”

The team was suspended last Thursday following a hazing incident that occurred at a party off campus. The incident included alcohol and “immature acts” and was reported by Residence Life last Tuesday to the department of athletics and recreation.

Further details surrounding the incident had not been released.

“I think we’ve got to move on from that, with due respect,” Baxter said. “It was just immature behaviour. There was an element of humiliation on the part of people, but realistically it violated the code of conduct.”

After a thorough investigation surrounding the baseball team members, it was confirmed that the team would be suspended for their four games scheduled for this past weekend for violating the student athlete code of conduct, which they signed on Aug. 27.

But Sunday evening, the Hawks gave a thorough presentation with two trainers, an assistant coach and head coach Scott Ballantyne present, apologizing to the university, the athletics program, the community and the players’ families.

The team acknowledged the negative aspects of hazing and proposed activities they will partake in, such as playing a role in the university’s peer-to-peer education programs, delivering anti-hazing and anti-bullying presentations, developing the team’s code of conduct further and initiating new team-building traditions.

“Peer-to-peer is much more powerful than a 53-year old athletic director saying ‘thou shall not,” Baxter said. “It’s all about breaking the cycle and eliminating the culture of hazing.”

According to co-captain Brett Van Pelt, the team spent much of the week together working on the presentation. Ironically, he said, it was one of the best team-building exercises they could have had.

“We’ve literally been a big family this week,” Van Pelt said.

The incident attracted media attention nationally throughout the week. Players were advised to stay quiet on Twitter and not speak to any media.

“I anticipated that we would be covered,” Fillion said. “But national attention did catch us by surprise.”

Ballantyne expressed his happiness with his team, despite the events that unfolded this past week.

“The outcomes far outweigh the detriments of what happened,” he said. “I couldn’t have been prouder of watching them last night.”

The team forfeited four games, which dropped their record to 4-8. With eight games remaining in the season, Ballantyne is still looking toward playoff contention.

“Kind of the way things have worked out this year, one or two teams are kind of pulling away and a bunch of teams are bunched together, which has left us right in the mix,” he said. “We’ve got just as good a shot as those teams to continue to make the playoffs.”

The Hawks resumed their season Tuesday night with a 7-4 loss in St. Catharines versus the Brock Badgers. Their next action comes this Friday night at home against Queen’s, followed by a double-header versus the Badgers Sunday.

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