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At Vermont, cuts have baseball on the outs

Vermont players gather before the final home game at Centennial Field for a baseball program that dates to 1888. Vermont players gather before the final home game at Centennial Field for a baseball program that dates to 1888. (Toby Talbot/Associated Press)
By John Curran
Associated Press / May 13, 2009
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BURLINGTON, Vt. - At Centennial Field, the sun was out, the infield grass freshly cut, the home team riding a six-game winning streak into yesterday's doubleheader.

It was a perfect day for baseball. And for the Vermont Catamounts, it was a bittersweet one: the final home games for a program that is being eliminated after this season in a budget-cutting move.

"Just taking the [highway] exit to get here, it was very emotional," said Dana Albert, 46, of Hull, Mass., watching as her son and his teammates warmed up. "My heart goes out to all the players, especially to [coach] Bill Currier and his family. We're just proud of the legacy."

As part of a $10.8 million cut that also eliminated 16 jobs, University of Vermont officials opted to eliminate baseball and women's softball rather than impose across-the-board cuts that would've affected the school's higher-profile sports - hockey, skiing, basketball, soccer.

To some, the decision was a logical one, if something had to be cut. Baseball at UVM isn't a revenue-producing sport, or one that gets much publicity or attention.

But the move broke many hearts - of players, coaches, parents, and those who say baseball belongs at UVM, where baseball dates to 1888.

"It's hard," said Currier, who's run the program for 22 years. "They didn't do anything wrong. I didn't do anything wrong. It's a real unfortunate situation."

"It's been kind of Vermont's team," said former assistant coach Jim Carter. "I don't think outsiders understand the tradition."

Yesterday, before the Catamounts were swept, 10-3 and 4-3, by Bryant University, Carter was selling T-shirts that reflected the mixed emotions of the day.

On the front, it read: "I Was There For The End of an Era (Error), May 2009." On the back: "Proud Supporter of UVM Baseball 1888-2009.