Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The First Great Thaw: A New Era for Purdue Calumet Peregrines Baseball

I'm going to write a bit on a team of which most who read this blog are unfamiliar. In the many years I have loved and watched the game of baseball, I have cheered for many teams, swayed allegiances to various Minor League clubs, and settled in a place of constant suffering with the Cubs. Yet in this abundance of passionate cries of heartbreak and victory, I could never really call a team 'mine.' While I am hopelessly devoted to the redundant anguish of the old Chicago club, the feeling of pride I get from a win is merely a vicarious temperament. There is a new pride, however, in the fledgling baseball program at my alma mater, Purdue University Calumet.

In my years at the Hammond, Indiana school, there was no baseball program. From time to time there was a signup sheet for those interested in forming a team, but the list was only ever as long as three or four names. For what its worth, Purdue Cal is not a large school like our parent in West Lafayette- not by a long shot. We have NAIA designation rather than NCAA, and our student body is minuscule when juxtaposed to the main campus. In my time as a student, we were a women's basketball school. Our program was rather good, but the success of a low-tier women's program was rarely marquee news. I attended a few games, work and class schedule permitting. The team was dominant, and I left feeling a slight sense of accomplishment, like I had somehow contributed to the success of MY team. Yet with the lack of coverage, it was difficult to know how well the team was doing unless I researched the team myself. I rarely did, despite my affection for my school's athletic programs. There was always a mild guilt in the back of my mind for not keeping up with the team.

Turn the page to around a year and a half ago. I was living in Chicago at the time with some of my good friends. We had a decent-sized apartment for the price, and would often convene in the living room with our laptops while vaguely watching Netflix. I remember I had heard a rumor a while before about my school finally fielding a baseball program, but I wasn't sure if it was true. Upon my momentary research, I found that not only was the team finally coming to fruition, but the program would start play in late 2013. There were designs for a combined baseball and softball complex, as well as an announcement of a coaching staff. The excitement eventually wore off, given the long wait until the team would play their first game, but I kept up with the development of the program- recruits, minor press releases, et cetera.

Then finally came the day the Peregrines took the field. It wouldn't be a home field, as the complex I previously mentioned is not yet finished. The team dropped two preliminary games in mid-October to Olivet Nazarene University, and then nothing for nearly five months. Baseball is strange in that way. It makes damn sure you understand the brutal wiles of winter, so that when we swing around to warmer days, we welcome the game with open arms as if it brought back the fair weather itself. Yesterday, the tenth of March, Purdue Calumet baseball resumed. Coincidentally, it was the warmest day so far of this calendar year. Again, on the road, the Peregrines played a double-header against University of Pikeville in Kentucky. They came up short in the first game, but took an early lead and won the second. It was the program's first victory. I learned of the win just this morning. A warm sense of pride crept in. The game I love was finally being played at my alma mater. With the first win, the team really felt official.

I still regret not following the athletic programs more intently when I was a student. Those years of wandering about campus disconnected from the culture of my school did me little good, I suppose. Purdue Calumet isn't much for a college atmosphere, being set in the middle of an old industrial city in Northwest Indiana. The school is often ridiculed by those who attended the West Lafayette campus, but it doesn't bother me. I enjoyed my school and I enjoyed my college experience aside from the seemingly inherent lack of a baseball program. But now is a time for reconciliation. I have a team. We have a team, and I could not be happier to pledge my allegiance to a team I can call 'mine.'

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