Idaho State doesn’t officially have a baseball team. There is no multi-million dollar, state of the art, on-campus baseball stadium with locker rooms, hot dog stands and media members.
Instead, there’s a small ball field on West Alameda Avenue about three miles from campus where a club baseball team, which wears ISU, apparel shares with the three Pocatello high schools and the Gate City Grays.
With about 20 rows of bleachers above each dugout, admission is free with a relaxed, yet somehow still tense atmosphere.
But without funding from the ISU athletic department, the team is forced to raise the necessary funds on its own to keep the club team afloat. It accomplishes this through fall fundraisers and a $250 player fee for the spring season.
“It’s tough,” said head coach Tory Hansen. “But that speaks volumes to how much we love the game. A lot of them have jobs just so they can come out here and play baseball.”
Along with working jobs, players will sell old jerseys, ask local businesses for sponsorships and close relatives to donate.
“They don’t mind it,” said freshman second baseman Justin Frazier. “They are glad you’re still playing.”
With a fall and spring season, the team is composed mostly of players who have transferred from junior college programs or weren’t able to land a scholarship out of high school.
“The games don’t matter in the fall,” said shortstop Sean Persky. “That’s a way of coaches getting a look at everybody. We have had guys who haven’t played in years and we have guys who have transferred from full college programs. There’s a huge diversity in that.”
Last year, six players who suited up in Bengal uniforms went on to play for the Gate City Grays and this season, Persky has agreed at play for the Alpine Cowboys, a professional minor league baseball team in West Texas.
According to his coach, that does not happen very often.
“A lot of times in club ball, it’s guys that have already gone out and played,” Hansen said. “It’s a junior college, it’s a community college and they come home to Pocatello. A lot of times, it’s guys on the downhill, so it is very rare that you see a guy like Sean.”
Frazier, a Century High School graduate, is using the ISU team as a way to prepare for trying out for the Grays.
“I knew I didn’t have a scholarship or anything so I figured I’d come to ISU,” Frazier said. “It’s kind of sweet to pick up on this and play with guys who just want to be here.”
The team is composed of fifteen members and competes in the south region of the Northern Pacific Athletic Conference.
The conference is composed of Montana, Montana State, Weber State, Boise State, ISU and Utah State.
“In my opinion, this is one of the toughest conferences in the nation,” Hansen said. “Boise State always come out and competes and we’re always there. And then you have your powerhouse in Utah State.”
Utah State has won the championship three times in recent history, coming from a conference that sends each of its top three seeds and an at-large bid to the regional tournament.
“We play some legit teams,” Frazier said. “It’s college baseball.”
On road trips, the team splits gas money and shares hotel rooms. Combined with five practices per-week, the team has grown into a family.
“It’s such a beautiful sport,” Hansen said. “I’m going to play as long as I can and this group of guys is incredible. They come out here for the love of the game.”
ISU is scheduled to host Montana in its final home stand of the season this weekend at Halliwell Park.