For the first time in 28 years, the "ping" sound is returning to Eugene, Oregon. The Oregon Ducks are traveling to Moraga, California to battle the Gaels of St. Mary's.
The Ducks are lead by George Horton, who was previously the Head Coach of Cal State Fullerton for the past 11 seasons. Â In his tenure there, Horton lead his team to the College World Series six times, won the National Title in 2004, and was named National Coach of the Year twice.
Since there has not been an Oregon baseball team in nearly three decades, it has been quite a journey to get this project of the ground. The program has been built from the ground up in just 17 short months, by constructing a team of 35 players including 20 freshmen.
Horton is optimistic on this upcoming season, â€śIâ€™m pretty spoiled and pretty confident in myself and my staff,â€ť he said. â€śWeâ€™ve got good athletes here. Itâ€™s just a question of whether they believe theyâ€™re good enough. I think if they stay in character, from what Iâ€™ve seen, I do believe we have a chance to be competitive.â€ť
On the other hand, his players are realistic. â€śThereâ€™s going to be games where we get beat by 12 or so maybe, but weâ€™re going to come back and punch back and make sure it doesnâ€™t keep happening over and over,â€ť freshman second baseman Danny Pulfer said. â€śWeâ€™ll take lumps this year, but weâ€™re also going to put on some lumps.â€ť
The popularity of baseball in Oregon will not be a problem, but the team still has many issues in front of them. Finding a home to play in is one. Previously, the Ducks played in Howe Field, which was built in 1936, and stood until 1987 when it was renovated to suit the softball team. In August, a new $18 million dollar stadium built near Autzen Stadium began.Â When complete, the stadium will hold up to 4,000 people. The first phase of construction was complete in time so the Ducks could host their home-opener againstÂ defending National Champion, Fresno State. Upon completion of the season, the second phase of construction begins when the temporary bleachers are replaced by a permanent grandstand.
According to Yahoo Sports, Oregon's decision to bring back baseball to Oregon was not without its headaches. "To make room, the Ducks discontinued their wrestling program following the 2007-08 season and added varsity womenâ€™s competitive cheer. Proponents for the wrestling team filed a lawsuit against the school, which was dismissed last October. Supporters of Oregon wrestling included a son of author Ken Kesey, himself a former wrestler. Some also questioned varsity competitive cheer, which is not recognized as an NCAA sport. The team has not yet started competition and is separate from the schoolâ€™s cheerleaders and dance squad."
Overall, enthusiasm and hope are back in Oregon in their return to PAC-10 baseball as the memories of the Oregon State Beavers and their back-to-back National Championships are still in the air. With 31 NCAA Division 1 conferences, the Pac-10 is currently ranked 3rd in the nation. The Ducks are indeed in for an adventure but as Coach Horton sees it, this is a challenge he is looking forward to. â€śAlthough weâ€™re young,â€ť he said, â€śweâ€™re looking forward to matching up our team with the other teams and seeing where weâ€™re at."
MORE ON THE RETURN OF BASEBALL TO U of O:
Baseball Returns to U of O After 26-Year Absence
Devon Teeple is an author for the Business of Sports Network. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies.Â Devon is a former student within Sports Management Worldwide's Baseball General Manager Class. Devon is the founder of The GM's Perspective and is a intern with The Footbal Outsiders and contributor with the Plymouth River Eels.
Currently Devon is a Branch Manager at a financial institution in Southern Ontario Canada.Â He can be reached at