It's a phrase that to be honest, I was quite skeptical about hearing: Opening day is less than a year away for the Western Nevada Wildcats baseball team.
That's right, Western Nevada Community College will begin its inaugural season in baseball next season in the spring, 2005. While WNCC always had the tentative goal of possibly playing baseball in 2005, the more realistic goal was thought to be 2006.
But all that has changed for the school's committee that has been working for the past two years to develop a full-fledged athletic program. "We're doing it," said WNCC vice president Helaine Jesse, who has spearheaded the committee, about playing baseball in 2005.
WNCC will also begin a women's soccer program in the fall, 2005. WNCC's athletic program now offers rodeo, which is based in Fallon.
The school will seek the Board of Regents' blessing for its new athletic programs at its meeting in June in Reno. WNCC will then form a committee to hire coaches for baseball and women's soccer.
Jesse said WNCC will be able to field a baseball team in 2005 "beacuse of the interest and the support of the community. It's phenomenal. I'm so excited."
WNCC's baseball team will play at Governor's Field while the women's soccer team will play at Edmonds Park. Jesse said that all of WNCC's athletic programs will have to be funded privately over the next three to five years.
The school has long-term goals of also having men's soccer and women's softball programs and to develop its own athletic facilities. Jesse said the school eventually hopes to seek partial financial support from the state legislature.
She said the school hopes that someday its athletic programs will be fully funded by the state. Jesse noted that Nevada one of the only states in the country that doesn't provide much support for community college athletics.
The commitment, though, is essentially a year-to-year proposition. Each sport will need up to $125,000 a year to operate, with baseball being the most expensive, so the area would essentially have to support the programs on a year-to-year basis. "They have to help us out," said Jesse about the community.
But a big reason why WNCC can go forward with baseball next year is Wednesday's fund-raiser featuring former Major League great Steve Garvey. Jesse said the school expects to clear $50,000 from the event.
The Bay Valley Conference in California has been divided into Western and Eastern Divisions and WNCC will likely compete in the Eastern Division. "That's where I think we fit in just perfectly," Jesse said.
It's no secret that many Northern Nevada baseball players head to California schools such as Feather River and Lassen. Feather River advanced to the California Final Four last year relying heavily on Northern Nevada players.
A look at Carson Country players alone out of state shows what kind of talent pool this area has. Carson High's Carl Winter (Modesto), Tony Teixeira and Rodney Black (Cerro Coso), Neil Holmes (Yuba), Tim Priess (Feather River), Douglas High's Cal Lewis (Feather River) and Fernley's Tyler Selden (Feather River) and Matt Lambeth (Mesa, Ariz.) are all making an impact. Just imagine if most or all of those players were at WNCC.
Add to that all of the players from Northern and Northeastern Nevada. "They should be coming here," Jesse said. "They should be at our hometown school."
Jesse noted there are also many players who aren't playing who could play at WNCC. "The talent pool is huge," she said.
While schools like Feather River have a good neighbor policy in which Nevada students are charged out-of-state tuition, Jesse noted that players at WNCC can use the Millennium Scholarship.
Carson baseball coach Ron McNutt said a program at WNCC is long overdue. "I just think it's going to give a lot of kids an opportunity to stay here and play," he said.
STEVE GARVEY JUNIOR HIGH
Garvey talked about being one of a small number of living people to have a school named after him. Steve Garvey Junior High in Lindsay, Calif., was named after Garvey in 1978.
Garvey visits the school every year and participated in last year's 25th anniversary of the school's naming after him. Parents who were students at the school when it was named after him now have children attending the school. Garvey will visit the school again in May.
Among the candidates that Garvey beat out to have the school named after him were Elton John and Elvis Pressley. "It was my first electorial win," he said.
Garvey is an example of a living person with a school named after him who has had his image tarnished through paternity suits and his ex-wife's tell-all book and has talked about his shortcomings in general terms. "A lot of things happen to you," he said.
But Garvey has accepted the responsibility. "How many guys nowadays would want the responsibility?" he said.
Garvey also noted that some of the toughest questions he receives are from the students he talks to.
"They're pretty tough," he said. "They want to know about steroids. They want to know about drugs."
He said they ask questions like why do players make $25 million a year and if he used steroids and how much did he make.
On a lighter note, Garvey noted that his school's library is named after his former manager with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda, who is known for his eating. "They really should have named the cafeteria after Tom Lasorda," Garvey said.
Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor. Contact him at email@example.com or 881-1214.