They’ve won Ivy League titles and NCAA tournament games. They’ve sent two players to the major leagues in the past two decades and had two draftees last year.
But the Penn baseball team never competed in the championship of the Liberty Bell Classic — until Tuesday night.
Though the Red and Blue failed to capture the crown, falling to St. Joe’s, 6-3, they added a new program benchmark.
Coach John Cole suggested that Penn has always had a logistical disadvantage with the way the Liberty Bell Classic is setup — and it’s true.
It’s tough for Penn to compete when the tournament always takes place on Tuesdays and the Quakers are typically coming off a weekend of double doubleheaders. Pitching staffs are depleted, catchers are sore and players are beat up.
“That’s probably why Penn’s never been in it,” Cole said of the 21-year-old tournament.
That showed against the Hawks, as “Johnny Wholestaff” once again took the loss, and Penn struggled to come up with a big hit when it needed it.
Nevertheless, for the first time in a long time, there was some excitement around the baseball team. The Quakers hope to make this an annual thing.
Of the 302 attendees, the Red and Blue contingent made up at least half. Yes, it’s nothing compared to the 45,000 the big league team usually draws at Citizens Bank Park, but it is a huge step up from the 59 souls who turned up for Penn’s last home game against La Salle on April 11.
The Red and Blue Crew and players’ parents, as well as other groups, held tailgates beforehand, which drew over 100 students combined.
Not bad for a Tuesday night in the last full week of classes.
“I don’t know what kind of beverages they were serving, but I wished they had served a little bit more,” senior designated hitter James Mraz said. “One fan was pretty rowdy, so that’s always nice to see. I wish we could get more of those guys at the Meik.”
Penn is currently lacking a popular spring sport. Football dominates the fall, and basketball hogs all the attention in the winter. But how about spring?
Why not baseball?
Sure, it would help if Meiklejohn Stadium wasn’t a short drive down I-76 and a nearly 30-minute walk from the west end of campus.
But on a nice afternoon with hot dogs being sold for a low dollar, there are definitely students who would enjoy spending it at the ballpark.
Interest is certainly peaking now, and Cole hopes it will translate to more fans finding their way to the Meik.
“That was fun to see that energy, because we’re always trying to get that down at the ballpark,” he said.
There’s no denying the product on the field has to be good too. And this team proved it has that when it clinched a spot in the classic final. Adding an Ivy title — the Quakers haven’t won one since 1995 — wouldn’t hurt either.
So while it would have been nice to add a new shiny trophy to the shelves in Weightman Hall, for now, the Penn baseball team can take pride in this new accomplishment that no squad before it could ever achieve.
MIKE WISNIEWSKI is a junior classical studies major from Philadelphia and is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at Wisniewski@theDP.com.