Hawks soar to OUA finals
The Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks’ men’s baseball team swept the reigning champion McMaster Marauders this weekend for a spot in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) finals.
The Hawks are now set to make their first-ever provincial championship appearance, where they will battle the Western Mustangs.
Both games were exciting match-ups that saw Laurier rally from behind – edging the Marauders late in game one to earn a 4-2 victory and again in game two earning the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, taking the game 3-2.
“These were huge team wins,” commented head coach Scott Ballantyne. “We’ve had to work really hard to get to where we are.”
Over the summer, the team lost their entire $20,000 budget as part of Laurier Athletics’ financial reductions. The entire squad, led by Ballantyne, has fought back to prove their team’s worth.
According to Ballantyne, the loss of funding has negatively affected the team in many ways.
They have had difficulty recruiting and keeping players and utilizing proper training facilities and equipment.
There have also been issues with game and practice diamonds, transportation and other costs associated with travelling.
“We had a major challenge,” explained Laurier’s director of athletics and recreation Peter Baxter. “We had to cut our department by 16 per cent over two years which works out to $380,000.”
“The student athletes need to realize that their experience is a privilege and not a right, I think what the baseball team has done off the field to raise money has actually helped them on the field,” said Baxter.
This year, the team had to increase their $300 Adopt a Hawk fee “to $500 to offset the basic costs of the program.
“Ideally you’re supposed to find someone to sponsor you this money,” said team captain Mahn.
“But it’s difficult to get an employer to pay that much, and if you can’t get one it comes out of your own pocket.”
Each of the school’s pay-to-play sports are now using their Adopt a Hawk funds to operate their programs, whereas Laurier’s funded teams have their money going towards enhancements.
“I think they could’ve cut it a little more evenly across the board,” said Mahn.
“Instead of trying to make a team fund their entire season on their own, they could have at least given us a bit of a budget.”
On top of the Adopt a Hawk fee, it is mandatory that each player pay a $75 student athlete fee, $25 Athletic Banquet fee and $125 apparel package, with no option to opt out.
The remainder of the team’s budget had to be raised through fundraising initiatives and donations.
“It was pretty positive to see how strong the whole baseball community really is,” said Mahn.
The Hawks gear up for the championship series this weekend against Western. Game one will be held at the in London on Friday, with game two taking place at home on Saturday at Bechtel Park at 1:00 p.m.
“Hopefully with positive results this weekend and with our commitment and accomplishments so far, the school will reconsider their position,” said team captain Chris Pittaway.
“We don’t want the program to die after how far we’ve come,” added Ballantyne.
“Hopefully we’ll be back in the Athletic Department’s plans when it’s time to reassess the funding in the future.”