A baseball story that will live forever

This is an opinion column.

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At schools like Alabama and Auburn, earning a spot in the College World Series would require an all-expense-paid trip to Omaha, Nebraska.

Coaches will receive large salary bonuses and contract extensions.

It’s not the same for Birmingham-Southern College, which is closing on the same day the Panthers begin play in the championship final of the Division III national baseball tournament.

The bitter-sweet story of the Birmingham-Southern baseball team has won the hearts of people across the country. I hope some new Panthers fans can help pay for the team’s trip to Eastlake, Ohio. Someone has to come up with some money because it’s definitely not going to be school.

Birmingham-Southern was scheduled to close at the end of the month, but the baseball team is participating in the D-III World Series that begins May 31. The team returns to Birmingham from its super regional win on Sunday and then flies to northwest Ohio on Wednesday. The Division III College World Series runs May 31 through June 6 at Classic Auto Group Park in Eastlake, Ohio.

good man: Birmingham-Southern headed for defeat

Birmingham-Southern swept its Super Regional series against Denison University on Saturday. The second game of the three-game series was a thrilling 7-6 win that went down to the last out. That night an email from a family member of a player on the Birmingham-Southern team arrived in my inbox. It was from a grandmother. She made a wonderful point. Here is Kathy McCain’s message:

“Since the team is traveling to the World Series, the school will be closed, so it appears all travel and coach expenses will be covered privately. If that is true, who can you shame into helping? I am the grandmother of a team member. I took funds from the IRA in an effort to keep the school open. I know others have sacrificed to support. Surely the state, city, county or other community members can help them get the most out of the Series…one last appeal to the community please.”

Get it over with, Kathy.

The NCAA pays for teams’ travel to its championships, but if you’d like to help the Birmingham-Southern baseball team have a memorable experience, send an email to Birmingham-Southern coach Jan Weisberg. His email address is jweisber@bsc.edu.

Grandma Kathy’s email about coaching salaries reminds me of a conversation I had last week with Birmingham-Southern assistant coach J.D. Hulse. I asked Hulse where he was going to work once his tenure with the baseball team was over. He didn’t know.

Hulse said he is putting all his energy into supporting the team and will worry about his future once this is over.

Hulse has to provide for his family. He is the father of two young daughters. The inspirational story of the Birmingham-Southern baseball team is garnering national attention, but people don’t think about the assistant coaches.

To make this dream a reality, the Birmingham-Southern baseball team is having to make real sacrifices.

Hulse serves in multiple roles for the baseball team. He is the third-base coach, recruiting coordinator and strength coach. He graduated from Birmingham-Southern in 2011 and was an assistant at Louisiana Tech before joining Weisberg at his alma mater. Birmingham-Southern has made it to the national tournament six of the seven years Hulse has been on staff.

Now he’s coaching in the College Baseball World Series, but he’s doing so at the same salary as a Little League World Series coach.

Hulse sent me a message after the win against Denison.

He said, “Today is an amazing day!”

Birmingham-Southern baseball is now a national sensation. This is a team that refuses to give up, even though its school is closed. After winning the Super Regional, the Panthers have a sense of team destiny. Last week they took a bus to Granville, Ohio, and beat No. 2 Denison. A documentary crew is with them this time. These are the same people who produced “Two-A-Days” for MTV.

Maybe Netflix should give some money to help these players and coaches.

National outlets have also picked up Birmingham-Southern. The Division III baseball World Series is going to be packed with reporters for the first time in the tournament’s history. I’ve already booked my plane ticket. My flight also leaves on Wednesday.

All this attention may not save the school, but it may at least give Birmingham-South graduates a chance to celebrate the end of their school’s existence.

Birmingham-Southern’s roots date back to 1858. This small school has always been one of the finest liberal arts universities in the Deep South. The story of the school’s financial ruin has unfolded over the past few years. There was hope that the school could receive aid from the state and city, but the plan failed when politics got in the way.

However, thanks to this baseball team, Birmingham-Southern is fighting to the end, and now even beyond the grave. It’s a good ghost story that wraps up a tragedy and, if nothing else, maybe all this publicity will help the baseball team enjoy a story together that will live on forever.

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Do you have a question for Joe? Do you want to pour your heart out? Send Joe an email with what’s on your mind for the mailbag. Get your word out. Ask him anything.

Joseph Goodman is the lead sports columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of the most controversial sports book ever written, “We Want Bama: A Season of Hope and the Building of Nick Saban’s Ultimate Team.”

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Disclaimer : The content in this article is for educational and informational purposes only.

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