Why We Need To #SaveLaSalleBASE – @JamesSantore

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La Salle Baseball Seniors (L-R) James Kelly, Alfonse Sadallah, Tommy Toal, Ryan Guckin, Mike Jenkins, Jack Cucinotta, Colin Scanlon, Colin Kennedy

 

“Everything happens for a reason.”

That is something that I tell myself every single day. No matter how crazy things get, I try to remind myself that every single piece of craziness in this world is something that we have to take in stride. Because, like it or not, that craziness means we have another day on this earth and the ability to do good in the world.

That being said, the last seven months have been nothing short of insane. From the moment my roommate, Joe Ravert, knocked on my door with the news of La Salle’s decision to cut the baseball program, I knew that life was about to change. Not only for me but for every single person associated with the La Salle Baseball program.

To some, that may seem dramatic. College sports programs getting cut is, unfortunately, the norm now. But La Salle is different. And before I go into why it is different for me personally, I want to make sure I highlight those that this matters the most to: the current players and parents. 

40 student-athletes made the conscious decision to attend La Salle. Every single one of those players worked tirelessly to achieve their dream of playing Division I baseball, something that you can see in the graphic below is achieved by only 2.2% of all high school baseball players. (via NCAA)

This 2.2% represents those that went the extra mile in every aspect of their life to reach the pinnacle of amateur athletics, enduring the strenuous life of someone who needed to perform at the highest of levels physically, mentally, and academically. Taking that a step further, all of these kids chose La Salle as the place to do it. And now? The home they chose is telling them they are not welcome.

From an academic perspective, these guys hold a 3.1 team GPA. Anyone who has been through a Divison I season (or any college season) knows the struggles of trying to balance games, practice, lifting, class, a social life, etc. To have a group of ~40 athletes maintain an average GPA above 3.0 is a remarkable feat that I fear goes unnoticed when discussing the success of this team.

On the field? This year’s Explorers are off to the best start in school history, amassing a record of 29-16 (1st place in the A10 North) and just two games shy of tying the school record for wins (31) set in 1985 – which just so happens to be the last time La Salle appeared in the NCAA tournament. With 8 regular-season games left, there is a chance that:

 

  1. La Salle could win the A10 North and earn a bid to the A10 playoffs
  2. Host the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time in school history
  3. Become the winningest team in La Salle Baseball’s 74-year history

No team deserves a godsend more than these guys. I am so lucky to be friends with a lot of these players and it has truly been inspiring to see the way they have come together as brothers to perform above any and all expectations. And they are doing all of that while representing a school that doesn’t even want them.

I always like to give the current team their credit before discussing anything else. If I am being frank this entire campaign may not even be in existence anymore had the boys folded and let the craziness dictate their performance on the diamond. But I think I owe people my reasoning of why I am helping to lead this charge to #SaveLaSalleBASE, and explain why La Salle means so much to me personally.

You might not be able to tell from my face being everywhere on social media these past few months trying to raise awareness for the cause (I am just as tired of my face as you are, if not more, by the way), but I am someone that endured a very difficult high school experience and struggled immensely with anxiety. I honestly had never performed well enough to even consider playing college baseball until my Junior year, and even at that time had zero clue what my future would hold. I had hoped baseball would be a part of it, but just like everything else at that point it was a great uncertainty.

I think my struggles in high school stem from never really feeling like I was a part of something. I was a very odd kid and didn’t fit in with my teammates (or really anyone for that matter) and more often than not I was very lonely. Never having a feeling of connection to a group led me to feel like I was a social outcast and I had really began to wonder if there was anywhere I could actually fit in. College for me was something that I knew I had to do but had never really taken seriously or was excited about due to that anxiety. Fortunately, I had amazing parents who kept my head on straight and told me to continue pursuing baseball as a means of finding that perfect landing spot. When I ended up having a few opportunities to play college baseball, La Salle was one of only two options I had at the Division I level.

And man, I really can’t express how much the decision to choose La Salle changed my life. As soon as I stepped foot on campus as a recruited walk-on in 2012, I finally felt like I was a part of something; I immediately had 37 brothers who all made the journey to Olney Ave, and the demanding schedule of college baseball meant all of us would be spending almost all of our time together.

Whether we were on the field practicing, in study hall getting work done, in B&G or Treetops spewing for hours at a time, or sweating perfusely in the dark depths of the infamous “Jawn,” I had finally found my family. And that famliy honestly saved my life. I can’t express how lost I was at that age. I would go through every single day in high school wishing someone would understand what I was going through in my life. And somehow, someway, being a part of La Salle Baseball made all of that go away.

And now? I get to enjoy this crazy life with the brothers I made at La Salle, and that alone makes this life one worth living. I can honestly say that every single one of my teammates is successful in life. Every single one. And I am so damn proud of that (as evidenced by the above tweet that I sent out just a few days before the team was cut) because we are all products of our environment. And I think that is what makes me so upset about this whole situation.

May be an image of 7 people, including Joe Ravert, Jorge Jiménez, Josh Savakinus and James Santore, people sitting and indoor
La Salle Baseball family celebrating Joey Monzo at his bachelor party in Vegas. Every guy on the trip played at La Salle between 2012-2019.

After we did the Barstool Pizza Review with Dave Portnoy (thanks again, Pres), I had a meeting with several top executives at the school. Their reasoning for cutting the program and putting the outrageously astronomical price tag of $9 million (that came after originally stating $100 million to save all 7 programs and $15 million just for baseball) was that they needed to “enhance the Division I experience.” But the funny thing about that is that those making the decision have never gone through the trials and tribulations of being a student-athlete. And specifically, not student-athletes at La Salle University.

Am I saying that things are perfect at La Salle? Hell no. Anyone who looks at the campus and our facilities is aware of that. But for La Salle Baseball players and alumni, none of that matters. Would we have loved chartered planes, heated dugouts, catered meals, and all of the rest? Of course. But that’s not what we were at La Salle for. All of us chose La Salle for the opportunity to develop into men through Baseball. And develop into men we did. And if you asked 500 of our alums whether they would go through their time at La Salle again while enduring the same conditions, I guarantee you that they all say yes.

This brings me to where we are today. As much as the school wants to decline comment or try to state that “the matter is closed, we are positive that if we do our job of raising $1-$2 million that our case will at least be reconsidered.

So if you agree with me that this program needs and deserves to be saved, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. As you can probably tell, there is not much else on the planet that means as much to me as La Salle Baseball. I would give up anything I own and am literally willing to empty my bank account to save this damn team. That is how much La Salle Baseball means to me. La Salle Baseball is so much more than baseball. And La Salle Baseball deserves the opportunity to continue to develop great human beings and some damn good baseball players.

We are only accepting pledges at this time so no money changes hands until the program is reinstated. All donations (upon reinstatement) will be gathered by the La Salle Legends Foundation, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit entity established to create a self-sufficient future of the program while highlighting some of the best that have donned the Blue and Gold, and using baseball as a means of giving back to the surrounding community. To find out more about the La Salle Legends Foundation, please watch the video below.

Branded Sports’ CEO Joe was kind enough to create #SaveLaSalleBASE merch to support the cause with 100% of proceeds going towards the team, so if you’re looking for a cheap and cool way to support the cause look no further!

Save LaSalle Baseball Gear To Support The Cause #SaveLaSalleBase

I shared my personal story above to say this: I am a microcosm of La Salle Baseball. There are hundreds of future Explorers that are looking for an opportunity to find a family and purpose, just like I was. And we need to make sure they have the chance to do that. So like I said before, I will stop at nothing to make sure we give them that chance. It’s La Salle Baseball vs the world right now. And I am taking La Salle Baseball 100 out of 100 times. So, be careful if you’re standing in the way of saving this team. Because whether you like it or not, you’re going to lose.

And on that day, I can assure you that the La Salle Baseball faithful will be celebrating the greatest win in team history the only way we know – crushing lukewarm beers in an overheated and dimly lit basement.

Contact Information:

James Santore

santore43@yahoo.com

Twitter: @JamesSantore

Instagram: @Savelasallebaseball / @JamesSantore

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