For the most part, the University of Calgary enjoys a fantastic athletic reputation. However, baseball isn’t normally recognized as a part of the athletic canon even though the U of C has a baseball club. Dinos athletics has developed into one of the most prestigious and successful programs that continually poses a threat to other schools in the Canada West conference and across the country. However, that hasn’t always been the best description of the U of C baseball club — until this past season.
The U of C’s baseball club is coming off their most successful season in the team’s history. U of C baseball officially put its name on the map after an emphatic Cinderella run to the national semifinals, defying all expectations for a program that faced numerous obstacles to get there.
The 2012 Dinos baseball regular season was a forgettable one. Riddled with injuries and an exhausting travel schedule, the team finished the regular season with an abysmal 5–21 record, most notably losing the last 17–straight games going into the playoffs. The team made the playoffs as a feature of the round robin conference schedule. During the playoffs the team managed to pull together and take down some of Canada’s top teams from Kamloops and the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute.
Led by former player and head coach Colin Moro — in his first year as head coach of the Dinos — the team’s expectations have increased substantially after losing in the conference semifinals during the 2012 playoffs. Recent renovations to Foothills Stadium are also a cause for optimism this season.
“We still need to assess what we have from last year. There are a lot of new guys coming in and we still need to build the competitive aspect of the team,” said Moro. “Based on last year, we can be a lot better throughout the season going into the playoffs.”
One of the most fascinating things about the club’s playoff run was that the team never played a single home game last season. Confronted with the hindrance of the Foothills Stadium being under repair and virtually unusable throughout the spring, the team was restricted to indoor practices and playing their entire season in opponents’ stadiums. Keeping that in mind, it doesn’t come as such a surprise that the student body has been in the dark about the team’s existence for so long.
“It’s pretty tough without a home field — playing all your games on the road is such a grind. I couldn’t imagine what their mindsets were like all season,” said Moro. “To have the field this year is going to be a big bonus. You can’t do much when you’re stuck indoors — you need to get on the field.”
Since Dinos baseball is a club and not a varsity team, the players are burdened with covering the costs for their travels and the program at large — essentially paying their way through the season. The strains off the field may be responsible for the team’s record over the years, having never finished a season over .500 winning percentage or even more than nine total wins in a single regular season. However, having games in Calgary this season will lighten the load on players who have battled through the physical, mental and financial fatigue of previous years on a club team at the U of C.
One of the team’s strong points will be their pitching rotation, led by right-handed pitcher Riley Schaaf. Going into his fourth year at the U of C, Schaaf has become one of the most promising starters the program has ever had. With progressing numbers and coming off a terrific playoff run, he has developed into a serious threat to help carry the team deep into next year’s playoffs.
“We need more guys like that, hopefully having a player like that in the lineup will help us throughout the season and help develop more talent within the team,” said Moro in regards to Schaaf’s improvement throughout his years with the program.
Schaaf is coming off a summer stint playing in the Western Major Baseball League, one of Canada’s top summer leagues where he had the chance to play with Division 1 American players and gain some experience playing high-calibre ball. He said this experience helped him develop considerably and has given him the confidence to lead the team.
“Every year we seem to bring in better players — we’re now starting to build a reputation as a better club,” said Schaaf. “We just need to come together as a team. There are always a bunch of new guys and we just need to show them leadership, hard work in practice and what it takes to play in this league. We’re all in the same boat, and if we’re working together nothing should hold us back.”
Now having the opportunity to play in a newly renovated home stadium, there is no doubt the program is improving their talent and level of competitiveness. The Dinos have already started practicing and training for next season at Foothills Stadium, playing intersquad games frequently throughout September. This upcoming season shows tremendous promise, and the team encourages all students and baseball fans alike to come get a close-up look at the new stadium, and what may be the best kept secret at U of C.