A Home Run

Big leaguers support SU baseball

Written by Jason Behenna
Photography by Eric Badeau
May 7, 2013
n the fall of 2007, Seattle University decided to increase the amount of sports offered by the school as a way to improve the athletic program’s profile when it completed the NCAA Division I reclassification process. Five sports were added: men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf and baseball. The tennis and golf programs were slated to begin competition in the fall of 2008.

As for baseball, more time was needed to reestablish a program that had been a significant part of the Seattle University Athletics Department before being dropped as a varsity sport in 1986.

The baseball program needed to start from scratch, as there was nothing left over from the earlier days, not even a baseball. Equipment needed to be purchased, a coaching staff hired, a roster assembled and a field to play. With all that needed to be done build the program, it was decided that the baseball program would return to competition in the 2009–10 academic year.

Donny Harrel was hired as head coach in the summer of 2008, and he immediately got to work on establishing a new baseball program. The alumni who had played baseball in the past, along with the parents of SU players, had a significant role in helping the program grow. For example, alumni such as Ed and John O’Brien, Pat Gillis, Bill Tsoukalas and Mike Gibson helped secure well-known guest speakers at the season-opening Meet the Redhawks Dinner, starting with Tommy Lasorda in 2011, continuing with Cal Ripken, Jr. in 2012, and featuring former Seattle Mariners Dan Wilson and John Olerud this year. The dinner is an annual fundraiser for the baseball program.

“I like to support baseball whenever I can and the Seattle University baseball team is supporting great causes and doing amazing things in the community,” Olerud says.

The group of supporters known as the Diamond Club has also played a major role in assisting the city of Bellevue with improvements to Bannerwood Stadium to be NCAA-compliant (Bannerwood is where the team plays its home games). New dugouts and bullpens, a fresh paint job and new windows for the press box have been added to the facility in the past three years. Plans are in the works for a new scoreboard as well as an improved sound system.

This season, the baseball team is shooting for one of the eight spots in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Grand Prairie, Texas, where the winner receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Get team information, schedules and more here.
athletics baseball Former Seattle Mariners John Olerud (left) and Dan Wilson were the guest speakers at this year's annual baseball fundraiser.