Baseball team grapples with transportation, game coverage issues

Junior+captain+Calvin+Jacey+said+the+long+distance+to+practices+and+games+presents+a+number+of+problems+for+players%E2%80%94including+a+lack+of+access+to+facilities+for+players+to+master+their+craft.

Photo: Courtesy of Calvin Jacey

Junior captain Calvin Jacey said the long distance to practices and games presents a number of problems for players—including a lack of access to facilities for players to master their craft.

By Tyler Foy, Assistant Sports Editor

Players on Emerson’s baseball team said they are frustrated by the distance they have to travel to practice and play—a hurdle they say is just one of many they face. 

Due to the lack of available fields in the city, the baseball team plays games at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, which is 20 miles away from campus, and practices at Maplewood Park in Malden which is seven miles out, each one requiring a bus ride from campus. 

Baseball and tennis are the only Emerson sports teams required to travel for home games, as all other teams play at either Rotch Field or the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym. 

Junior captain Calvin Jacey said the long distance to practices and games presents a number of problems for players—including a lack of access to facilities for players to master their craft. 

“We would just like a space for us to get our work in without having to go through so many hoops just to practice and try to get better,” Jacey said in a phone interview.

Get This Week's News

All the big stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning 

Head Baseball Coach Nicholas Vennochi said new recruits are told there are a lot of positives and drawbacks of attending an urban institution like Emerson.

“We talk to every single recruit and we make it really clear what they’re getting themselves into,” Vennochi said in a phone interview. “They make a trade-off for the middle of the city. There’s so many great opportunities in the city from a job, internship opportunity standpoint, and being downtown.”

Junior outfielder and pitcher Quinton Copeland, along with many other players on the baseball team, have been forced to use off-campus indoor facilities.

The team has spent money out of pocket to practice by renting out batting cages at Extra Innings in Watertown. 

“We’ve probably given them two to three grand this semester, out of our own pockets, just to be able to get some work inside,” Copeland said.

Athletic Director Patricia Nicol said the Athletic Department provides funds to schedule practices at indoor facilities in their budget. Since the players were organizing the trips to Watertown on their own separate from the school, however, they are responsible for the cost of that training, Nicol said.  

“If student-athletes want to just go on their own outside of practice, that’s up to them,” Nicol said in a phone interview. “But as far as actual team practices go, we do that. It’s budgeted for that, and we use off-campus indoor facilities for that reason.”

On March 7, the Athletic Department put up batting cages at Rotch Field to aid the baseball and softball teams in their practices. The plan to install batting cages began last season, but was postponed by the pandemic. 

“It was a joint effort between myself, the [Head] Softball Coach Phil [McElroy], and Nicol who had to sign off on that last year,” Vennochi said. “We were able to do it for both of our programs, which is always great.”

While the distance makes it difficult to practice, it also results in the baseball team receiving less media coverage and fan support in comparison to other sports on campus. 

“The only thing we represent is Emerson, and we play far enough away that we’re not actually representing anything to anyone because nobody’s watching,” Copeland said. “We don’t get any student support, and it’s really not even the students’ fault just because you’d have to take an Uber, and I can’t imagine it’s cheaper than $25 to get out there.”

Beyond limiting in-person viewership, the physical distance also impacts the team’s ability to earn coverage from Emerson Channel Sports. Jenna Kase, director of sports marketing for ECS, said transportation is the main factor.

It’s hard to get up to Danvers and cover baseball,” Kase said in a phone interview. “Simply for the reason that in the Bobbi [Brown and Steven Plofker Gym] we have a control room built into the second Skybox level, and when we go to Rotch, it’s close enough that we can walk all of our equipment down to the field. But when it comes to baseball, it’s tough because they’re all the way in Danvers, and we don’t have a car to bring our equipment there.”

Jacey said the players have felt the repercussions of the lack of coverage, as it has left families without an avenue to watch the games.

“It’s tough because we have so many kids from all over the country, and their parents can’t come and watch us play,” Jacey said.

Copeland, a native of Houston, Texas, adapted to the lack of coverage by setting up his own tripod and live-streaming games via Instagram Live. 

“I came a long way to play, [and] my dad’s a former Minor League Baseball player and lifetime baseball coach,” Copeland said. “Getting to watch me play is a big deal, especially since we’re in college, and even though I hope to be able to play at the next level, I’m well aware that it’s very much an uphill battle. Especially now that we’ve got the pandemic stripping seasons, every game is super important not only for me but for my family, and we’ve had no live streams at games unless I did it myself with my own phone.”

Viewership is important for all collegiate athletes and ECS is one of the only avenues for players’ families, according to Copeland. There is a mutual understanding of the emotional aspect of this situation from Kase. 

“I feel for them, I can’t imagine even for their parents,” Kase said. “You watch your son grow up and play baseball for 18 years, and then he gets to college and you can’t watch him play at the collegiate level, so I get that’s tough. But again, it’s just a matter of the travel and how far away Danvers is from campus. I could say that if they were in Boston we would most likely be there.”

First-year third baseman Sebastian Germosen said the coverage adds to the baseball experience, as it’s a major part of the game.

“That’s kind of a struggle of having a field so far,” Germosen said in a phone interview. “I would love for [ECS] to come and cover games because that’s another part of the baseball game that is exciting.” 

Kase said ECS’s status as an independent student organization makes it difficult for them to accrue enough monetary resources to invest in transportation. 

“It would be easier if … we were at least part of the Athletic Communications Department, maybe that will be possible,” Kase said. 

The thought of some sort of transportation for ECS to get to Danvers isn’t completely out of the question, and could become reality in the future.

“That was never really approached to me,” Nicol said. “But that’s something that we could certainly entertain if they had the ability to, or if they had available students. That’s something we could entertain as far as providing transportation.”

Aside from the new batting cages, the program received other new resources from the Athletic Department including the implementation of bus transportation, which replaced the vans the team used to take from campus to the field. 

“Now they’re in a full bus to go to practices and games,” Nicol said. “The budget has been significantly addressed, equipment, we’ve purchased some capital items for them.”

The dream for the baseball team would be to eventually get a field that is located in the city. 

“Every single year, we always are shooting to have that golden goose of fields in the city,” Vennochi said. “It’s always something on my mind like I talk to my coaches about it daily, and it’s something that the admin knows, and they’re trying their best.”

Although Danvers is quite a distance away from campus, it’s a location they consistently play games at. Four to five years ago, the team bounced from one field to the next, but now they have a multi-year deal with the venue.

“The challenge has been the venue, but we’ve definitely addressed that,” Nicol said. “No, we don’t have an on-campus baseball field, we probably never will. What we’ve done is we’ve gone out and we’ve signed multi-year agreements with other venues so that it’s consistent.”

The program has seen positive changes, but Jacey and others believe there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. He said that when he entered the program, he wanted to better it for those that come after him.

“I really want to leave this program on a good note where the incoming kids just have a more positive experience with the baseball team here,” Jacey said. “It’s just so hard for us to do stuff, and I really just want the incoming kids in the next five-to-10 years to just have a super positive experience with everything.”

Show your support for essential student journalism

News and the truth are under constant attack in our current moment, just when they are needed the most. The Beacon’s quality, fact-based accounting of historic events has never mattered more, and our editorial independence is of paramount importance. We believe journalism is a public good that should be available to all regardless of one’s ability to pay for it. But we can not continue to do this without you. Every little bit, whether big or small, helps fund our vital work — now and in the future.