It’s 5:45 a.m. and while most of Eau Claire is at home asleep, the Blugolds club baseball team is in the gym taking infield.
The sun won’t rise for another two hours, but this doesn’t faze them. This is the only time they can get in the gym.
“It is ridiculous,” Blugolds’ baseball president and de-facto manager, Zach Johnson said of the hours. “But, it’s kind of expected.”
Johnson, a former Eau Claire Memorial baseball player, said he’s kind of gotten used to it. He said he isn’t frustrated with the university or the time and actually likes getting up early to start his day earlier.
The bad hours are because gym time is precious at UW-Eau Claire and since Blugolds baseball isn’t a varsity team, they have the lowest priority when it comes to reserving gym time.
“We can’t really be too picky with it,” he said.
So, from 5:45 to 7:45 a.m. they’ll take batting practice, practice relay throws, turn double plays, and work on their game.
They do it because they can’t give up on the sport.
“I’m going to play until my body parts won’t let me,” team vice president and shortstop Jordan Wollin said.
None of these men are ever going to make the pros. They won’t get scholarships for their play, although Wollin contends some of his teammates could.
“We can hit and field the ball like any D3 college,” he said. “A decent number of people on our team could play at the D3 or even D2 level.”
They won’t even compete for a true collegiate championship. And yet, they spend their early winter mornings in the gym working to improve their game.
“(We play for) the love of the game,” Johnson said. “It’s just good being part of a team and having guys who have your back. It’s about the relationships, it’s where I’ve met some of my best friends.”
Like other clubs, they organize events and hang out together regularly, according to Johnson. However, this isn’t beer league baseball or a club just for shenanigans.
“We’re here to have fun, but we all want to win the game obviously,” Wollin said.
Prior to every game the team captains will draw up the batting order and decide who plays where. Then, it’s time to take the field.
Usually series in the National Club Baseball Association consist of three games over two days. They’ll travel across the state, playing other club baseball teams in the Great Lake Western division.
They try to make sure everyone on the 25-man roster gets to play a little, but the best players certainly play the most.
It wasn’t a great season for the Blugolds, who went 1-9 in conference play, but they ended the season on a high note, defeating the Eau Claire Cavaliers in a thrilling 14-13 victory.