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Hole In Heart Doesn’t Stop Ricky Santiago

Hole In Heart Doesn’t Stop Ricky Santiago 1

Ricky Santiago Fla Atl Heart SurgeryBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Ricky Santiago of Florida Atlantic underwent open heart surgery less than a year ago to repair a hole in his heart.

He suffered from a birth defect known as Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return that was diagnosed last season after years of suffering through shortness of breath during strenuous activities.

Blood had been flowing into the wrong heart chamber for years which was causing his heart to enlarge. While not a serious problem for children, the situation becomes riskier as a person ages.

Incredibly, his condition was misdiagnosed since he was 11 years old as a doctor felt he suffered from asthma. Only after he clutched his chest last season during a mid-March game at Rice playing first base did it hit home that another diagnosis was needed and ordered by FAU Head Coach John McCormack.

This time after a thorough exam and an MRI was performed, a hole was discovered in his heart which was an apparent genetic flaw since birth. Surgery was performed 2 1/2 months later.

Santiago said that he suffering from shortness of breath his entire life during strenuous activities but really didn’t realize it was a problem. He felt it was just part of what was transpiring because he didn’t know any other feeling.

“I started seeing a doctor at the age of 11 for this issue,” said Santiago, who plays third base for the Owls this season.

“When I was younger, I played football, basketball and baseball. Most of the time when I played football or basketball with the amount of running involved, I would experience chest pains.

“Once I started having those symptoms, my parents took me to a doctor who diagnosed my problem as being asthma as he gave me an inhaler. We pretty much left it at that until my sophomore year of college.”

Santiago said that despite the misdiagnosis, he was not in serious jeopardy of being killed from the condition as long as he didn’t wait for surgery too long.

“Once they found out what my problem was, a surgeon wanted to open me up and repair the hole in my heart as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more enlarged your heart can get and the harder it is to fix.”

To read more of the in-depth story on Ricky Santiago, purchase the May 15, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Cal Bears Back After 2010 Death Sentence

Cal Bears Back After 2010 Death Sentence 0

David Esquer Cal celebrates 2011 CWS qualifyBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

BERKELEY, Calif. — One of the most amazing stories in college baseball history is unfolding at the University of California.

In September of 2010, administrators announced their intention to eliminate baseball and three other teams. It was a shocking announcement since the baseball program was the oldest athletics program at the school with a proud 119-year history through the 2010 season.

The baseball program had won two national titles, including the first College World Series in 1947 and another in 1957 and had appeared in the CWS five times heading into the 2011 season. A big factor in the decision to do away with Cal baseball was Title IX.

Several months after the announcement, administrators backtracked in mid-February of 2011 as they announced that men’s rugby, women’s lacrosse and women’s gymnastics would be allowed to continue but baseball and men’s gymnastics would still be eliminated at the end of the 2010-11 academic year. It was another body blow to the baseball program.

Just prior to the announcement by Cal administrators, a report in the New York Times said that if they went through with their original plan to cut four sports and demote rugby to varsity club status, it would cause a compliance issue with the federal gender equity law and force further cuts to men’s roster spots.

The article said that administrators would be forced to cut 80 men from remaining teams and add 50 women to come into line with Title IX.

The baseball program seemed to be on death row.

What happened next was historic in the annuals of college sports. California baseball boosters came to the rescue of the baseball program, raising $10 million in two months which allowed the program to be rescued from the chopping block.

At the current time, this money is being utilized to finance the baseball program at California as a fully funded NCAA Division I varsity sport.

The Cal Baseball Foundation was established to make this happen. This remarkable group of people headed by Stu Gordon (pitcher on the Cal. 1960-61 teams) and Dan McInerny (member of the Cal 1980 CWS team) are now trying to raise $25 million for a permanent baseball program endowment so it can operate off the interest forever.

This bold plan has never been done in college athletics’ history for a varsity sport on the NCAA Division I level, according to several long time administrators Collegiate Baseball contacted.

To read more about how California rebounded from having its program cut and how painful it was losing two recruiting classes, purchase the May 15, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE. The in-depth story of what Head Coach David Esquer endured, how the program fell on hard times for a few years, and how dynamic boosters formed the Cal Baseball Foundation to enrich the program with operating capital is all covered. In addition, it explains how the program came back to being a powerhouse once again in 2015.

Change By NJCAA Means More Foreigners

Change By NJCAA Means More Foreigners 0

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

The NJCAA Board of Directors repealed bylaws which have previously capped the number of foreign athletes who have participated in NJCAA sports.

The ruling means that any NJCAA Division I and II college baseball program now can offer their entire allotment of scholarships to foreign recruits if they decide to unless their conference or school has limitations.

The effective date of this bylaw change is Aug. 1, 2015.

Scholarship offers that are being put on the table now to foreign athletes who enroll after Aug. 1 can utilize this new bylaw change. The implications of this change could change the very fabric of NJCAA athletics.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see NJCAA baseball teams made up of all Venezuelan, Dominican Republic or Mexican players,” said Edgar Soto, highly respected athletics’ director at Pima College in Tucson, Ariz. and former baseball coach with the Aztecs for many years.

“You will probably see sports such as soccer and track and field really exploit this new rule to get athletes they haven’t been able to get before. Our school won’t be doing that and will utilize athletes from Southern Arizona as we have for years. But it will be interesting to see how different schools operate under this new system.”

Some NJCAA Division I and II institutions that are in the southern areas of the nation are expected to exploit this rule as they go after talented baseball players from Latin America.

Those in the northern areas of the nation are expected to go after top Canadian baseball players.

“The previous rule limited the number of foreign student athletes who could attend NJCAA Division I and II colleges,” said Mark Krug, NJCAA Assistant Executive Director of Sports Information and Media Relations.

“You were allowed to utilize 25 percent of the total allotment of letters of intent that you could offer. Let’s take NJCAA Division I, and an institution offers 24 letters of intent for baseball. They previously would only be allowed to offer 6 scholarships to foreign student athletes.

“With the change in the bylaw, there are no limits with the number of foreign athletes you can bring in as long as the student athlete meets initial eligibility requirements from our colleges. Then once they become a full time student, they must maintain eligibility standards to be eligible for participation in any sport.”

Krug said it could happen that an entire NJCAA school could field an entirely foreign baseball team next spring.

“With this new global view and approach by the NJCAA, we still have philosophical differences within our colleges. There are conferences and schools that want their local community to feed athletes into their athletics’ programs.

To read more of this story, purchase the May 1, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Wheelchair Bound Frizzell An Amazing Coach

Wheelchair Bound Frizzell An Amazing Coach 0

Thomas Frizzell Wheelchair Photo MassasoitBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

The roadblocks of life can stop many. But highly successful Head Coach Tom Frizzell of Massasoit Community College (Brockton, Mass.) is living proof that never giving up, even after being paralyzed from the waist down, is absolutely crucial.

Now in his 25th season as head coach, the 65-year-old skipper is believed to be the only coach in college baseball history to lead a team from a wheelchair to a national championship as he directed the Warriors to a NJCAA Division II national title in 1993.

He has led Massasoit to three NJCAA Division II World Series and two trips to the NJCAA Division III World Series while compiling a 678-304 record entering the 2015 season.

He was paralyzed during a horrible accident. As a 27-year-old, he had earned his Master’s Degree and was a bright, young administrator at Davis School in Brockton, Mass.

On Nov. 1, 1977 at about 7:30 p.m., he was opening up a parent counseling meeting. At the time, he was standing next to a cinder block wall.

Unknown to him, a heavy set woman was leaning against a second block wall behind him which gave way. That wall crashed into the wall directly behind Frizzell which fell on top of him and severely damaged his spinal cord. He became paralyzed from the waist down.

It was later determined that neither cinder block wall had any concrete inside to fill the hollow blocks – only sand.

Frizzell would now endure a life in a wheelchair as it took eight months of rehabilitation and soul searching before he could get back to work.

Little did he know that life would turn for the better. He eventually decided to teach as a Professor of Business with his specialty being sports marketing at Massasoit C.C.

Frizzell had a huge background in baseball prior to the accident, and many knew his passion for the sport.

One day in 1986, Massasoit Head Coach Billy Mitchell asked Frizzell if he would consider working with his kids on the baseball team.

“Initially, I was very hesitant,” said Frizzell.

“I told Billy that I couldn’t walk. But Billy told me that he knew I played baseball and had a lot to share with the kids. I went to a few practices. For a year, I showed up periodically with the feeling that I didn’t have much to offer these kids.

“Later, I became more involved and actually became an assistant coach. The kids were extremely supportive of my handicap and only wanted to learn more about the game of baseball. I worked with infielders and hitters. It became a great thing to do for me in addition to my teaching responsibilities as a full professor.”

After the 1990 season, Mitchell took another job at a different institution which left the Massasoit job open.

Frizzell, who had now been assistant for three years with the Warriors, applied for the job but had no idea whether administrators would take him seriously or not.

“I was granted an interview, and I was asked point blank whether it would be difficult for me to recruit players to play since I was confined to a wheelchair. I explained that I had been heavily involved in recruiting. My philosophy was to recruit the parents and tell them that I couldn’t offer their son a lot of money in the way of scholarship help, but I would be available seven days a week since I was a Professor of Business. I was almost always in my office except when teaching classes. That was an important selling point about our program. It was comforting to parents to know that I was available much of the time.

“A lot of coaches at junior colleges are part time and aren’t easy to get in touch with. I also did not go to the houses of recruits. I asked them, along with their parents, to come to my office which had a much better setting. I also explained that I had learned all the ropes of this program through Coach Mitchell for the past three years and was well aware of what needed to be done to keep the baseball program on a high level.

“Ultimately I struck a deal with the Athletics Director that if I didn’t win, I would resign. So he agreed, and the rest is history.”

Frizzell said his first year as head coach was one he will never forget.

“We whipped off a 32-9 record that year. Two years later, we won the NJCAA Division II national championship. Then in 1995, we finished fourth in the nation at the World Series. After switching to NJCAA Division III, we went to the World Series two times with fourth and third place national finishes.”

To read more about the amazing Tom Frizzell, purchase the May 1, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. It explains how he can still throw four rounds of batting practice, how his players help him when problems come up with his wheelchair, tasteless comments he has received, why he was ejected from a game, how he has coached third base from time to time and how his team pulls off the double suicide squeeze play.

Discipline In Hitting Equals Loads Of Runs

Discipline In Hitting Equals Loads Of Runs 0

Mike Martin Florida St MugBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

Florida St. has utilized a tactic for years that pays off with loads of runs. Under hitting coach Mike Martin, Jr., hitter discipline has been one of the key components in the offensive production.

A byproduct of hitters who don’t chase anything in sight is walks. The Seminoles currently lead the nation with 213 walks in 29 games which is 46 more than second place Mississippi St.

FSU hitters are averaging 7.3 walks per game this season which has forced pitchers to throw hitter’s pitches.

When pitchers throw strikes, Seminole batters routinely crush them as attested to 90 extra base hits (58 doubles, 29 homers and 3 triples).

Seminole hitters refuse to buckle on inside pitches as they have been hit 48 times (4th in the nation). Fourteen different hitters have been plunked this year.

When you add it all up, FSU’s on-base percentage is No. 1 in the nation at .424. The net result of all this offensive activity is that FSU is No. 2 in the nation in runs (241) and No. 3 in scoring (8.3 per game).

To prove hitter discipline works, FSU’s batting average currently is only .271 (130th out of 301 NCAA Division I teams), which is well below what Seminole teams typically produce under Coach Martin. But runs are still being scored in droves.

Entering his 18th season as the team’s hitting coach, Martin is widely recognized as one of the bright minds in baseball.

Heading into the 2015 season, the Seminoles under Martin have batted .309, averaged 7.97 runs per game and posted a .482 slugging percentage over the past 17 seasons. Florida State has played in six College World Series, 13 Super Regionals and 17 consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

The Seminoles have batted .300 or better 11 times and posted an on-base percentage of at least .400 15 times. Six of the top 11 hitting teams in FSU history have come under Martin’s watch.

“Mike, Jr. is tireless in his approach to teaching home plate discipline with our hitters” said FSU Head Coach Mike Martin, the Seminoles’ skipper the past 36 years and father of Mike, Jr.

“He has utilized this approach for many years, but it takes a great deal of effort to refine the discipline of hitters when they first come into the program. He throws batting practice to our guys nearly every day.

“But he is big on not having our guys swinging at a pitch early in the count that is a borderline strike. If the ball is on the outside corner, first pitch, we call that a pitcher’s pitch. We won’t swing at that.

“Now as we get into the count, that mentality of course changes. If a guy is able to throw pitches there all day long, then of course we must make adjustments. But early in the game if he is having trouble, we won’t go out and swing at something quickly that’s off the plate.”

The FSU skipper said that his hitters over time become comfortable with this approach.

“I’m not saying this is the best approach. Every coach is different in his offensive philosophy. Ours just happens to be that we preach this concept and work on it every day. When you are disciplined like this, it allows our hitters to get good pitches to hit more often than not.

“I would like to emphasize that we don’t go to the plate to walk. We don’t want anybody to think that’s what we do. If hitters ever go to the plate with the thought of walking, they shouldn’t take their bat with them. Our hitters are going to be aggressive if the ball is in the strike zone. Guys who we recruit didn’t come to Florida St. to walk. We want every recruit to realize that when a pitch is thrown for a strike, we try to rip it.

“But when a pitch is off the plate, and you swing at it, you are doing the guy on the mound a big favor. And we don’t like to do those type of favors.

“We just want to be sure our hitters know their own strike zone. And Mike, Jr. deserves the credit for doing such a great job at teaching our guys what they are.”

To read more about this in-depth story on hitting discipline and why it produces loads of runs, purchase the April 17, 2015 or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. The rest of the story includes how long it takes to train a disciplined hitter at Florida St and the entire process of being disciplined from former Oklahoma State Hall of Fame coach Gary Ward and why it works.

Special Report: How To Be A Great Coach

Special Report: How To Be A Great Coach 0

Paul Mainieri By CageBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

What does it take to be a great baseball coach? LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri might be the perfect person to answer this challenging question.

With a 1,225-641-8 record in 32 years as a collegiate coach entering this season, he has had incredible success coaching at St. Thomas University (1984-88), Air Force (1989-94), Notre Dame (1995-2006) and now LSU (2007-present).

The 57-year-old Mainieri, who was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014, joined his father Demie as the first father and son Hall of Famers in the history of this organization.

They also are the first father and son duo to each win 1,000 games during their college baseball coaching careers.

Demie won 1,012 games over 30 years at Miami-Dade North Junior College in Miami, Fla. and over 100 of his former players were drafted or signed by professional teams, 30 of whom made it to the Major leagues.

Imagine being Paul, who at the tender age of three, being allowed to watch a game from the dugout during one of Miami-Dade North’s baseball games.

His mother Rosetta, concerned Paul might get hurt, insisted that he follow his dad everywhere he went for safety reasons.

When Demie was forced to make a pitching change in the game, Paul followed his dad out to the mound without Demie’s knowledge. Everyone in stadium started laughing.

Little did anyone realize that a Hall of Fame coaching career was just starting as Paul soaked in everything about the game of baseball even at that young age.

Paul is not simply a coach. He is a master teacher who cares deeply about his players. But he is brutally honest as well. Beyond baseball, he expects his athletes to be academically sound and also devote time to community service to help those in need or less fortunate.

The core of his baseball knowledge comes from four tremendous baseball minds, including his dad Demie, New Orleans’ Head Coach Ron Maestri and former Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager Tommy Lasorda — all Hall of Famers.

He also learned quite a bit from Jim Hendry, former coach at Columbus H.S. (Miami, Fla.).  Hendry later became the Head Coach at Creighton University and led the Bluejays to a third place finish at the 1991 College World Series.

Hendry was hired to be General Manager of the Chicago Cubs and then became a special assistant for the New York Yankees. 

“I had a very unusual upbringing being the son of a great coach and teacher,” said Paul.

“But it wasn’t just my dad. My mother Rosetta was also a teacher. So I was the son of two teachers. In that day, teaching and coaching were considered prestigious professions that impacted young people’s lives. You felt like you were making contributions to society because you were helping develop young people to be successful.

“As a coach, it would be on the athletic field. But in the long term, you were helping kids prepare for the challenges they would face in life and teach them how to prepare to be successful. As I grew up with my four siblings, we would eat dinner every night together with my parents. And they would talk about the virtues of teaching, serving others and having an impact on other’s lives.

“That was the thing that captivated and intrigued me. Most other young boys grew up wanting to be Major League baseball players. Quite frankly, I grew up wanting to be a college or high school baseball coach.

“I heard my father numerous times talk about the great college coaches who were in the game at that time, including Danny Litwhiler (Michigan St./Florida St.), Rod Dedeaux (Southern California), Bobby Winkles (Arizona St.), Dick Siebert (Minnesota), plus many others. These were the people he spoke about over the dinner table, and these were my idols as I grew up.

“For me as a youngster, I loved playing the game of baseball. But I wanted to be a coach. As an athlete playing baseball in high school and college and besides wanting to do well and help our team win, I was constantly learning from coaches. Sometimes it was learning how not to do things.

“Sometimes I would see how certain things were done, and I thought to myself that when I was a coach I wouldn’t do it that way. I also picked up a lot of great ideas to become a better coach.

“As a boy growing up, it was a remarkable learning environment from two extraordinary teachers. As an athlete, I was fortunate to be exposed to a lot of different coaches and their styles, what they taught and how they taught it. I was a sponge and wanted to learn from all of them, some good and some bad stuff. All of them influenced me in some way.”

To read more about what it takes to be a great baseball coach, purchase the April 17, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. The rest of the article includes Mainieri’s offensive philosophy, the influence of Tommy Lasorda, what it takes to be the very best, handling cancers on a team, why honesty is crucial in coaching, being a caring coach, what he learned from each coaching stop, his four pillars of success and why his kids don’t give up.

Texas Southern’s Blue Suffers 3 Gun Blasts

Texas Southern’s Blue Suffers 3 Gun Blasts 0

Jamell Blue Texas Southern MugBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

Jamell Blue was shot three times during a robbery attempt in south Chicago during his freshman year of high school in 2006. He was walking home from school when he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The senior southpaw pitcher for Texas Southern University said that bullets pierced his jaw, right hand and forearm while one bullet came to rest centimeters from his spine.

Surgery was performed on his jaw and hand.

But the bullet near his spine could not be operated on for fear of paralyzing him. He will carry this bullet with him the rest of his life. Jamell ultimately made a full recovery.

The streets of Chicago feature some of the highest crime rates in the nation. According to 2014 Chicago crime and murder stats, there were 388 people shot and killed, 2,231 shot and wounded, 2,619 shot and 456 homicides. Chicago can be a tough place to live especially in south Chicago where Jamell grew up.

“I was shot three times by a robber — once in the jaw, once in the hand and once in the back coming home from school,” said Blue.

“I was just walking home, and another guy was walking by me in a dead end area which was dark. It was only me and the other guy who then tried to rob me. I didn’t have anything to give him. But I had already seen his face, and he then shot me three times.

“It was the first time I had ever been shot. After I was shot, I got up and ran to the nearest house for help. Those people then called an ambulance which took me to a hospital.”

Blue said surgery was performed to extract the bullet and damage to his jaw as well as his right hand.

“The bullet in my back was too close to my spine. So they never operated on it for fear I might be paralyzed. One bullet went through the side of my right hand and landed on the inside of my forearm.”

To read more about the amazing story of Jamell Blue, purchase the April 3, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.

Vanderbilt’s Offensive System Explored

Vanderbilt’s Offensive System Explored 0

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

Vanderbilt hitting coach Travis Jewett is one of the elite coaches in baseball.

He is now in his 22nd year as a collegiate coach and has been a big reason why the Commodores are 122-37 over the last 2 1/2 seasons and won the national championship in 2014.

His hitters are extremely disciplined at the plate as attested to 671 walks over the last 2 1/2 years (4.2 walks per game) as his batters have a .408 on-base percentage.

They also refuse to give in to inside pitches as hitters have been plunked 191 times during that time. His guys can also hit. Batters have collected 313 doubles over the last 2 1/2 years.

This season his batters have hit .314 with 64 extra base hits in 21 games (42 doubles, 12 triples and 10 homers). They also have tremendous speed with 302 stolen bases in 2 1/2 years.

Jewett not only utilizes a highly aggressive approach to hitting which produces results. But his teaching style is unique with a bubbly personality that everyone embraces.

Plus, he is creative and utilizes every trick in the book to give his hitters daily game-like experiences when they hit. He doesn’t utilize gimmicks and is old school with his approach to hitting.

He is absolutely convinced that for hitters to improve, they must see balls moving toward them just like in a game.

Practices include the use of a special pitching machine which allows coaches to utilize eight programs and eight different pitches, if necessary, in different sequences to simulate pitchers they will go against.

He also places a practice home plate at 55 feet from the machine, another 2-3 feet closer and a third 2-3 feet closer still. Then hitters can simulate faster pitches that go higher in the strike zone as they work on hit and runs which they must swing at.

If that wasn’t enough, Jewett and other coaches throw hitters hundreds of pitches a day to prepare them for games. An in-depth explanation of the Vanderbilt hitting system will be covered.

Jewett said that his hitters focus on success rather than the numerous failures hitters continually experience.

“If we can do that, we can stay sane as hitters since batters have a high failure rate,” said Jewett.

“I want them to be in control. I am a little bit of a cave man when it comes to the teaching of hitting. The tee and all those things are fine. But I would rather our kids warm up on things like this.

“There is a difference between hitting and swinging. Hitting is having balls moving toward you with some speed and movement and utilizing strike zone management and recognition of breaking balls and shapes.

“Every day, I want balls moving at our hitters. When you see the breaking ball shape, is it a ball, strike, up, down, a pitch I want to attack or more of a pitcher’s breaking ball that we want to check off from.

“Hitting in simplified terms is swinging at the right pitches. You would like your hitters to swing at strikes and let balls go for the most part. But there are exceptions. Sometimes that hanging breaking ball, even though it might not be a strike, is the best pitch to crush. I want the other team to know that if our hitters get pitches like that, our guys have the capability of hitting them hard.”

To read more of this in-depth story, purchase the April 3, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE. Jewett delves into the visual element of hitting, applying relentless pressure on opponents offensively, why discipline at the plate is crucial, teaching aggressive hitting, why you should never “stay back” when hitting and the problems this causes, why the natural turn of the lead foot is vital, plus much, much more.

Mount Everest Climb Planned For 2016

Mount Everest Climb Planned For 2016 1

Earls_Harold Army MugFor the first time in history, a college baseball player is organizing a climb to summit Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at 29,035 feet.

If Cadet Harold Earls of the U.S. Military Academy is successful in raising $260,000 for the 5-man ascent, his team will begin the climb in April of 2016.

Earls, a senior infielder with the Army baseball team who has never climbed any mountain, came up with the idea five months ago.

He saw this as a golden opportunity to have a spotlight directed at Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which has impacted the lives of many U.S. soldiers.

PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

This climb is hardly for the novice climber which is precisely why Earls has approached this climb with precision. Over the years, more than 200 people have died trying to climb Mount Everest. Many deaths have taken place due to avalanches, injury from ice collapse or falls, exposure and health problems related to the high altitude.

A 5-man team comprised entirely of active and veteran Army soldiers has never had the opportunity to summit the mountain until now.

“About five months ago, I was sitting in my room and came up with the idea of doing this to help soldiers who suffer from PTSD,” said Earls.

“I contacted Army Public Affairs, and they told me that no active Army soldier has ever made the ascent to the top of Mount Everest. Then I tried to network the best I could to see if my idea could gain momentum. The officers here (U.S. Military Academy) supported me and got behind me. One contact led to another.

“Now we have an incredible team of 5 climbers lined up who are all active duty or veteran Army soldiers from all different parts of the Army.

“In our training, we have already become very close. I am extremely blessed that this is going forward. I would never have thought five months ago that this would happen.”

Earls said that he has never climbed a mountain in his life.

 “I backpacked with my dad growing up. But that is hardly trying to climb the tallest mountain in the world.

“This isn’t a highly technical climb. So you don’t need a great deal of climbing technical skills. It is more of a physical, mental endurance ascent. I will be climbing Mount Rainier this fall (about 54 miles southeast of Seattle at a summit elevation of 14,411 feet, half the height of Mount Everest).

“Then we are looking to do another climb next December. While I don’t have any climbing experience, the rest of our team is pretty qualified for this endeavor.”

Earls said that at first, he received negative feedback from virtually everyone he contacted about pursuing such a climb.

“So many people at first told me that it was a great idea. But there was no way it would happen. People told me there was no way we could raise enough money for the climb, there was no way we could get it approved by the Army. Others would tell me that I was a Cadet, and I needed to focus on being a Cadet instead of toying around with this idea. So I used negative feedback as fuel and motivation to continue on. I have never been afraid of failure which you experience a lot as a baseball player.

“But before I knew it, people were coming on board with this idea. We haven’t raised all the funds we need yet. But we have gotten through a lot of legal loopholes and steps necessary to make this happen.

“I had an instructor here (Captain Benji Marquez) who was instrumental in providing encouragement to me. I shared the idea with him first. And he told me that I may fail, but I would kick myself the rest of my life if I didn’t try to make it happen. I took his advice to heart. Since that time, I have worked every day on this project to make this dream become a reality.”

Because of the logistical and bureaucratic tape involved in such a climb, this will not be a military backed operation, according to Earls. It is strictly private as companies are being sought to make the ascent possible.

“I initially tried to make it an official Army-backed climb. Unfortunately, there are so many bureaucratic mountains to climb that it makes it virtually impossible to complete this goal through that route.

“So this is an unofficial Army endeavor. I created a non-profit corporation called U.S. Expedition & Explorations — USX. We have a web site that people can go in www.usx.vet   

“That is who is officially putting on this expedition. We are looking at partnering with several other non-profit organizations. In total, we are looking to raise $200,000-$300,000. The $200,000 is strictly for the expedition cost.

“It wouldn’t be right just to raise money for a climb. My hope is that we can raise $100,000 more to help soldiers with PTSD.”

Earls said that this large amount of money doesn’t have to be raised all at once since items must be purchased in incremental order.

“The Nepal permits are $10,000 per person. We are looking to purchase those in April or May. And that is $50,000 right there. We would like to have all of our funds raised by next fall. That would be perfect. Then we could spend a great deal of time raising awareness about PTSD.”

Earls said that he is from Cumming, Ga. and hates cold weather.

“Being from Georgia, I hate the cold and don’t like running hills here. But that is probably why I was so drawn to climb Everest because of this incredible challenge.”

Since Earls is a senior this year at the U.S. Military Academy, he will embark on his military career shortly after graduation. And his life will be exceedingly hectic through next spring.

“I have an extremely busy year coming up. I get married June 11 of this year to Rachel. Then I go to Army Infantry School for five months. We are in the field training and learning officer tactics. The day that ends, I will be leaving April 1, 2016 to climb Mount Everest. That is a 60-day endeavor.

“Then I will come back about June 1, 2016 and have three weeks to recover. And then in the beginning of July, I will go to Ranger School which is 60 days of strenuous training in the woods. So the upcoming year for me will be quite the physical challenge. But I’m looking forward to all of it.”

To read more about the planned ascent to Mount Everest, purchase the March 20, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Coaching Legend Gordie Gillespie Passes

Coaching Legend Gordie Gillespie Passes 3

Gordie Gillespie2JOLIET, Ill. — Gordie Gillespie, one of the greatest college baseball coaches in history, passed away at the age of 88 on Feb. 28 after a long illness.

He retired following the 2011 college baseball season after 59 years and a college baseball-best 1,893 coaching victories at the time after coaching baseball teams at Lewis, St. Francis, and Ripon Colleges.

The coaching legend amassed 2,402 victories in four sports. 

Gillespie was inducted into 15 halls of fame and went 55 consecutive years (3,371 contests) without missing a game.

It was undoubtedly the greatest streak in athletics’ history before the flu sidelined him for the first 11 games of the 2008 season.

At the time of his retirement, he told Collegiate Baseball:

“When you get to be 85 years old,” said Gillespie, “The good Lord has a way of telling you that it is time to slow down. You reach a point when you just don’t have the time or the energy to do the job the way that you have always done it in the past and that time is now for me.

“I have loved every minute of what I have done in coaching for the past 59 years,” said Gillespie.

“I love this school and all the great people that I have had the opportunity to work with and the young people whom I have had the honor to coach.”

While Gillespie has achieved fame and success in coaching four sports, it is his record on the baseball diamond for which he will be remembered the most. 

Gillespie began a run of 59 consecutive seasons as a college baseball head coach at then-Lewis College in 1953.  He spent 24 years with the Flyers and posted no losing seasons after a 5-9 record in his first year.  He directed Lewis to the NAIA World Series eight times and his teams won national titles in his last three years at Lewis in 1974, ’75 and ’76.

He then made the short move down Illinois Route 53 to Joliet and assumed the head coaching reins at St. Francis. He tutored the Saints’ baseball program for the next 19 years and took his clubs to the NAIA World Series eight more times.  The Saints won the school’s first and only team national championship in 1993. 

He left St. Francis after a World Series appearance in 1995 and moved up to Ripon College, an NCAA Division III school in Wisconsin, where he replaced his oldest son Bob – who was also Ripon’s director of athletics – as the Red Hawks’ head coach.  He posted a 239-130 record in 10 seasons and led Ripon to the NCAA DIII playoffs in six of his last seven years.

In the spring of 2005, Gillespie’s long-time assistant and his successor at St. Francis – Tony Delgado – announced his retirement. Gillespie was offered the job and accepted.

Gillespie coached the Saints for the next six seasons and won two Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference championships and one CCAC Tournament title.

He earned over 1,000 of his 1,893 wins at St. Francis, eclipsing that magical number earlier this season. And, he did all that after he had turned 80 years of age.

Gillespie also coached men’s basketball for 15 years at Lewis and started the women’s basketball program in 1976 at St. Francis.

In his 15 years at Lewis, he had just two losing seasons and his inaugural St. Francis women’s team posted an 11-7 record.

While he is known nationally for his baseball accomplishments, the Gillespie legend may be even more prominent in Joliet in the sport of football.

Despite the fact that he never played the game, Gillespie directed the Hilltoppers of Joliet Catholic High to 222 wins and five Illinois state championships during a remarkable 27-year run. 

He may have added more state titles to his resume but the state playoff system was not put into place until 1974, his 16th year on the Hilltoppers’ sideline.

He was recognized by the Chicago Tribune as the head coach of the all-time Illinois prep football team in 1991.

Gillespie left Joliet Catholic in 1986 and started the football program at St. Francis. He directed the Saints to winning seasons in each of their first six years and had the school in the NAIA national playoffs in just its second year as a program in 1987.

Overall, in 110 sport seasons over the course of 59 years, Gillespie compiled a record of 2,402-1170-6 (.672). In all, Gillespie’s teams failed to record at least a .500 mark on only 10 occasions.

Gillespie is a graduate of Chicago’s Kelvyn Park High School and DePaul University, where he played basketball for Hall of Fame coach Ray Meyer. He also played college basketball at the University of Illinois and at Great Lakes Naval Center while in the armed services.

Gillespie is the father of seven children through a previous marriage (Bob, Mike, Billie, Greg, Gordie, Jr., Margaret Mary and Jackie). He and his wife, Joan, reside in Joliet. Between the two of them, they have a combined total of 37 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.

A special look at Gillespie and what he meant to thousands of coaches across the USA will be in the March 20, 2015 edition. To reserve a copy, CLICK HERE.