By ERIC GARANT
After struggling to keep enough players to field a team in 2012, Washtenaw Community College’s club baseball team found itself with a large surplus this semester.
In a reversal of its initial stance, the club sports department recently allowed the team to make cuts, trimming its roster from a logistically impossible 41 to a more manageable 24.
“Talking with Erica, I would have loved to keep them all, but not even a big-league team carries that many guys,” coach Jeff Rhein said, referring to Club Sports Coordinator Erica Lemm.
Rhein previously spent three years coaching high school baseball in Bloomfield Hills and Ann Arbor, and three years in the college ranks at Shawnee State University in Ohio.
“At the beginning, when I got hired on, there weren’t going to be any cuts,” Rhein said, adding that it would have been impossible to predict that so many students would come out for the team.
“We started out with like 13 guys,” veteran player Alex Aldridge, 24, an engineering major from Milan said in reference to last year’s squad.
Rhein said he believed the team finished the year with just eight players.
No one seems to know what caused such a spike in enthusiasm for baseball over the summer, but there are high hopes for this year’s team, both from within and without.
“This is the most talented team I’ve ever seen at WCC,” Lemm said. “They definitely have the talent, knowledge and work ethic to be very successful this year.”
“There’s always strength in numbers,” Rhein said. “We’ve got good hitters, good pitchers, good fielders.”’
“I’ll think we’ll be good, as long as we really come together as a team,” centerfielder Haddon Pakala, 19, a business major from Ypsilanti, said.
WCC’s team is not affiliated with any conference, which allows it to play a diverse schedule that includes several universities’ club teams.
The team began its season on Sept. 21, away against Lourdes University. Its first home dates are Sept. 25, at 5:30 p.m. against Eastern Michigan University, and Oct. 2 at 4:30 p.m. against the University of Michigan.
With so many students interested in playing baseball, would the college consider carrying two teams in the future?
“No,” Coordinator Erica Lemm said. “We’ll just have one team per sport.”