COLUMN: Alumni, students, fans proud of Chippewas
Sitting at Coco Joe’s Saturday afternoon during the annual Meet the Chippewas event one would get a sense of family, friendship and pride.
There was a sense of ‘Chippewa baseball,’ as the current players, former players, coaches and families would say.
The Central Michigan baseball program is one filled with a rich and successful tradition that people take pride in.
“Chippewa baseball comes from the loyalty of our alumni with a tradition that started back with Bill Theunissen (head coach 1953-62), then Waldo Sauter (head coach 1963-70), Dave Keilitz in the 70s and to Dave Kreiner (1985-98) then eventually trickled down to me,” current head coach Steve Jaksa said.
Since Theunissen took over in 1953, CMU has a record of 1755-1006 (64 percent), including 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, 13 major leaguers, 12 Mid-American Conference championships, two MAC Tournament championships and a national runner-up.
After its runner-up finish in 1971, the team stepped up to Division I, becoming the first sport to do so in school history. Since that time, no school in the Midwest has a better record.
“If you look at those alumni, their expectations and their loyalty, that is tradition,” Jaksa said. “This community has embraced baseball, and we want to do well every year.”
Physical education professor and CMU baseball alumni Gary Arbogast was the guest speaker for this year’s Meet the Chippewas and spoke of the lessons he learned from his teammates while playing baseball.
“They taught me how to move on from a bad day, how to make the tough times bearable and the good times memorable, how to compete hard, maturity, refusing to lose and group cohesiveness,” Arbogast said.
Arbogast was part of the 1971 NCAA Division II national runner-up team, and he said the team had senior leaders, which is something the 2012 version of the Chippewas are not lacking.
Seniors like outfielder Sam Russell, pitcher Zach Cooper, catcher William Arnold and infielders Tyler Hall and Nate Theunissen will have the role to set an example to keep the tradition of ‘Chippewa baseball,’ alive.
“I’m excited. I think we have a really talented ball club and we’ve got better over the fall and winter,” Russell said. “I think we have a good chance of being a very sound ball club.”
CMU baseball has — without a doubt — been one of the strongest and most successful athletic programs this school offers, and it exemplifies what this university is all about.
“Chippewa baseball is a symbol of CMU,” Arbogast said. “It’s been one of the strongest programs in the university for many years, and it is more than CMU baseball, it’s a feeling.”
Arbogast prides himself on being able to say, when asked if he was a student-athlete, that he was and that he played, “Chippewa baseball.”