’99: The Final At-Bat
The Story of Providence College Baseball
Thomas Zinzarella ’21
27 minutes is not nearly enough time to recount the entire history of the Providence College baseball program. Figuring out how to tell the story was even more difficult. For a film class this year, I was tasked with creating a sports documentary. There was only one story I knew I wanted to tell. The story of the baseball program.
It has been 21 years now since Title IX, among other decisions, forced Providence College to cut the men’s baseball program along with the men’s tennis and golf teams. To this day, there are no signs of resurrecting them. If you walk around the campus today, remnants of the Friar program can be found in Alumni Hall. There, you can catch a glimpse of some of the trophies, or some of the players’ likenesses on the wall of the athletic hall of fame.
Baseball was once a sport for some of the most talented players in the Northeast, especially right here in Rhode Island. The first varsity sport founded on PC’s campus in 1921, the baseball team faced off with schools that many are familiar with today, such as the College of the Holy Cross, Villanova University, and more. As the character Terrence Mann said in the baseball hit movie Field of Dreams, “The one constant through the years has been baseball.” The program made it through turbulent times in the country such as the Great Depression and World War II.
One obstacle that it could not beat, however, was Title IX. Many universities and colleges in the ’90s were starting to face a problem that Providence College had just begun facing; The costs of programs were starting to escalate, and some schools’ athletics programs were not in compliance with Title IX. Many schools had met the criteria for female students, but not for female student-athletes.
In my film, ’99: The Final At-Bat, I examine more of this issue, in addition to the history behind the program and the final season that saw the Friars capture success. It features interviews from former head coach Charlie Hickey, former players such as Marc Desroches ’99, and more.
The death of the baseball program here at PC mirrors a Greek tragedy. The 1990s brought some of the team’s greatest success, with multiple Big East titles and NCAA tournament appearances, before being gutted in the fall of 1998. Competing in one last season, the Friars not only set the school record for wins, but also captured the Big East title and a spot in the NCAA tournament. There, they would fall to the No. 2 overall seed and national runner-up that year, Florida State University.
The Friars showed that blue collar work ethic that many Rhode Islanders and New Englanders pride themselves on after dropping their first game to Jacksonville University. They then roared back to win the next two games, knocking off JU, and moving on to face FSU. With a lack of PC pitching depth in the short term, Florida State defeated the Friars, but it was something that all college baseball fans could admire. At the end of the year, PC was not only the best team in New England, but Baseball America also ranked the Friars in the final top 25 at the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament.
The only thing left from the team are the stories from fans, players, and students alike who not only saw the team, but lived it. If you look around the college baseball landscape today, Boston College and the University of Connecticut have sustained success as top programs in the Northeast. But there’s a team missing from that bunch, and it just makes you wonder where PC would be in that mix.
Providence College Investigates
If PC Were to Bring Back a Varsity Sport, They Should Bring Back Baseball
By Sam Scanlon ’19
Spring 1999 marked the last time that a baseball player donned the Friars uniform and played on Hendricken Field. Providence College was once home to a successful and beloved baseball program. It has been dearly missed over the years, which is why PC should bring baseball back.
Could you imagine the atmosphere on campus on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in May as the Friars host our bitter rival Villanova University?
Our school has a rich tradition of athletics, from our national championship in ice hockey to our distinguished basketball program. However, it still feels like there is just one thing missing. I believe that the one thing missing is a day at the ballpark.
Our softball program does an excellent job creating a terrific atmosphere on campus for each game, but I believe that a baseball team would be the perfect addition in order for our students to be ecstatic about game day.
Everyone loves going to baseball games. It would be great for students to head over to the ball field, grab a hot dog, and watch some college baseball. Both students and fans of the Friars’ baseball team were devastated by the announcement that the baseball program was being eliminated, so bringing the team back would definitely be something that the PC community would be excited about.
Most teams are cut from school or town leagues due to their poor performances, but in the final year of baseball at PC, the team finished the season with a 49-16 record — the best season in the program’s 78-year history. The Friars also qualified for the NCAA tournament in their final season. PC has been home to so many talented baseball players including Lou Merloni ’93 and Keith Reed ’00, both of whom had MLB careers. There was no shortage of success for the program, which is what made it so hard for students and fans to let go of the team.
Adding a baseball team with a successful history will not only make PC’s campus a better place to be on game days, but will attract many more students. The widespread love for the game of baseball, the program’s incredible history, and the comeback and reinstatement of one of PC’s most beloved teams of all time makes it a no-brainer for PC to add a baseball team to the College’s athletic program.