News Item

From a Group of Ragtags to National Championship Contenders

June 01, 2016

With the Lander University Bearcats baseball team making their second trip in three years to the NCAA Div. II College World Series, it may be difficult to believe that Lander has been fielding a team for just 20 years.

We recently spoke with alumnus – and first Lander University baseball player – Arvie Bennett, Jr. ’99 about his memories of the inaugural team.

After reading the news that the Bearcats were once again heading to the CWS, Bennett said, “I have been reflecting on my motivation for starting a baseball team at Lander, and how amazing it is that the dream of a group of students could culminate in a College World Series birth exactly 20 years after the inaugural season.”

Broken Back Leads to Fire in the Belly
Bennett was the driving force for the formation of the team. “My motivation was simply my love for the game in its truest form,” he said. “I had suffered a broken back playing football during my junior year of high school. While I missed most of my junior season of baseball, I played during my senior year in a plastic back brace. (Even with the brace) I still hit over .400 and led my team in RBI's. I had one error and posted a 9-1 record on the games I caught behind the plate.”

Because of his back injury, there were no baseball scholarship offers from other colleges. After his freshman year at Lander, however, he decided to organize a team himself.

“I figured there were a lot of guys like me out there that needed to catch a break and I wanted to do something other than just go to class; I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me,” he said. “I launched the Lander Baseball Club, and with the help of Jeff May and several other influential people, baseball, women's volleyball and women's soccer became official intercollegiate sports.”

“Ragtag” Group Plays for Love of the Game
“We played two seasons of club baseball with no scholarships, no trainers, no championships and basically only me coaching. I have to admit: it was the most fun I have ever had playing baseball. We were a ragtag group but we loved the game and grew to love each other. It was baseball in its purest form.

“Now, exactly 20 years later, it is awesome to see the legacy that a bunch of 19-year-old kids can leave for future generations. It is so true that what we do echoes in eternity!  It is my hope to write a book recounting the stories of those first two seasons, so I hope fate allows Lander baseball to bring home a championship and offer a great conclusion to a dream that started 20 years ago!”

 

First Baseball Team

Lander University's first baseball team.

First Baseball Team First Win

Newspaper clippings and hand-written comments by Arvie Bennett.

First Baseball Team Article

Article from the Greenwood Index-Journal heralding the arrival of baseball, women's soccer and volleyball as sports at Lander.