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May 28, 2015 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

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Daily Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS — Like a tree’s

rings signaling age, outfield walls
at college baseball stadiums show
how a program has grown through
the years. Michigan added to that
legacy in a big way on Sunday by
winning the Big Ten Tournament
and clinching the team’s first bid
to the NCAA Tournament since

“We talked the other day about

changing the 35 to 36 on the wall
(at Ray Fisher Stadium),” said
Michigan closer Jacob Cronen-
worth. “We all had a common goal,
and that’s what
helped us with

in today’s game.”




with Maryland
fighting in what
could be its last

descended down from his usual
perch on the top rung of the dug-
out stairs. He stood at the side of
the bench, with his hands on his
hips and bright-maize jacket glow-
ing with pride. “Now this is base-
ball,” he said, gazing out over the

Assistant coach Nick Schnabel,

who’s been alongside Bakich since
their playing days at East Carolina,
could sense the end was near even
though the Terrapins were threat-
ening. “I can smell it,” he exhaled
to nobody in particular.

Maryland’s Brandon Lowe, the

team’s leading hitter, popped a ball
to left fielder Kevin White, and
the celebration began.

Players were already halfway

from the dugout to the mound
when the ball touched down
in White’s glove, engulfing the

battery of Cronenworth and Ken-
dall Patrick. The cluster of players
jumped around the infield before
toppling to the ground from the
weight of the bullpen that had
suddenly arrived and dragged
everyone down to a dog-pile.

Hats and shirts with “B1G

Tournament Champions” were
quickly distributed, and play-

ers took turns
taking pictures
with the slick


wasn’t in the
celebration with
the other coach-
es and players.
He was leaning
against the dug-

out rail, arms crossed in front of
him and a smile in his eyes, just
soaking it all in.

“This is what it’s all about. It’s


The third-year coach of the

Wolverines (37-23) had taken the
team back to college baseball’s
promise land: the NCAA Tourna-

After Michigan home games,

the coaching staff’s children own
the turf at Ray Fisher Stadium.
Whether it’s running the bases
or taking batting practice in the

cages, people with the last name
Bakich and Schnabel often out-
number everyone else on the field.

It gives a family feel to Michi-

gan baseball. Players will be
doing interviews for TV or print
media and little Colt Bakich sud-
denly sprints through his legs,
prompting a surprised smile from
the sometimes grumpy athletes.


to help facilitate the feeling is
unconventional, the family feel-
ing is nothing exclusive to Team

Stretching back to Michigan

baseball’s “decade of dominance”
in the 1980s, many program
alumni from that period say that
their resume of 10 Big Ten regular
season titles, nine NCAA regional
appearances and four trips to the

Series probably

happened if not
for the Michi-



sign on to come


because of the
Michigan base-
ball family,” said Jeff Jacobson,
who played for the Wolverines
from 1980-83. His son, Eric, is
currently a senior second base-
man for the team. “It’s a very
strong group, and there has been
a lot of success in the program.
There’s a bond that develops
through hard work and success.

“Being with each other through

at your worst moments when
you’re exposed to thousands of
people, all the errors or walk-off
home runs that you give up. There
are the highest moments as well.
Everyone shares that bond.”

The evidence from this season

— the last week in particular — has
been clear to agree with the idea
that winning catalyzes the Michi-
gan bond. Throughout the tourna-
ment, Michigan became known
as the most confident bunch, even
though they were ranked lowest of
the eight teams in Rating Percent-
age Index.

Playing with

a swagger, the
team looks and


er with every


happy for the

former Michi-
gan and major
league pitcher Jim Abbott, who
won two Big Ten Tournaments in
his college career. “There’s tre-
mendous pride when you get to
do something impactful for the
program, like winning a cham-
pionship, there’s nothing better
than that.”

And the Wolverines will have

a shot next weekend at adding
another number to the outfield
wall, another ring to the tree of
Michigan’s oldest varsity sport
having become the eighth squad
from Ann Arbor to reach the Col-
lege World Series in Omaha.

“We’re standing on the shoul-

ders of 148 years of proud Michi-
gan baseball tradition and being
lifted up by many great teams
and great men that came before

us,” said Michi-
gan coach Erik
Bakich after it
was announced
that the team
would advance
to Regional play
to take on No. 19
Bradley in Lou-


trying to write
our chapter on

page 149 and just trying to con-
tribute and do our piece.”

In early February, Bakich gath-

ered Michigan baseball players,
their families, program alumni
and community members for a
pre-season banquet to kick off the
spring practices schedule. Called
the leadoff banquet, the evening

started off with a catered meal,
before Bakich settled the room
down and addressed the few hun-
dred people that comprised the

From the first words he said, it

was clear that his words would set
a tone for the rest of the season.

About five minutes into the

speech, he said that this would be
the “interactive” portion of the eve-
ning. Bakich asked that all Michi-
gan baseball alumni in the room
stand, yielding about 30 adults.
Next, he asked for those who were

Big Ten Champi-
ons for the pro-
gram to stand,
and about three-
quarters of the

remained stand-
ing. Finally, he
asked those who
had won the Col-
lege World Series
to stand — and

gentlemen responded.

Hailing from the 1962 Wol-

verine squad that took home the
program’s lone national cham-
pionship, the elder men drew a
standing ovation from the crowd.
Current players could be seen
straining on their tiptoes to get a
look at the heroes — the men who
epitomize what it is that they all
work so hard for.

More recently, other program

alumni have reached out to give
their support to the team as it
heads into NCAA play this week-
end at Louisville.

“We’re standing on the shoul-

ders of 148 years of great Michi-
gan teams and all the support
we’ve received from guys on the

team,” Bakich said. “Bill Moake
sent a message, he was the cap-
tain of that team. Ed Hood, Dick
Hoenig from the 1962 team sent a
message. Barry Larkin and Ryan
LaMarre sent the team a picture
holding up the ‘No. 1’ sign.

“It’s awesome, you see all these

guys tweeting at us, and it’s just
a lot of positive energy being
directed at us, and our guys see
that, and it just gives them confi-
dence, and it gives them strength,
and it fires them up.”

The players can feel the back-

ing of Michigan’s oldest varsity
program in this, their time of suc-
cess. Now it’s up to them to make
something happen with it.

When they return to the lead-

off banquet with their kids some-
day, these players want to be on
their feet for that standing ovation.

Baseball all in the family


The Michigan baseball team thrives on the support of past times, which have won 36 Big Ten and two national titles.

“It gives them
strength and it
fires them up.”

“When you sign
on to Michigan,
part of it is the
baseball family.”

“We’re just

trying to write
our own chapter

on Page 149.”


Thursday, May 28, 2015
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

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