Baseball is a game deeply ingrained in the identity of Manhattan College.
Brother Jasper of Mary F.S.C., the same man who would become the inspiration for the school’s nickname, founded the college’s baseball team late in the 19th century.
He would wear many hats during his time at Manhattan. Starting as the head of resident students in 1861, Brother Jasper would also become the prefect of discipline, the school’s first athletic director, the founder of the baseball team, and the advisor of many clubs involving music, literature and arts of the like.
Of his accomplishments, none has become more publicized than his involvement with the founding of baseball’s “seventh inning stretch”; a tradition Brother Jasper founded on a humid day when he decided to call timeout and have his team stretch halfway through the seventh inning in order to cut tension in the team’s tight matchup with a semi-pro team called the Metropolitans.
The point I’m aiming at is to reveal the genuine and romantic relationship Manhattan College shares with America’s Pastime. A relationship, though, that has lost its flare in recent years.
At the turn of the millennium, the Jaspers became a near-perennial contender in the MAAC conference. They captured their first MAAC championship in 2006 and would go on to win back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
What was beautiful about these championship campaigns was their physical link to Manhattan College, specifically Van Cortlandt Park.
The historic New York City public park had been home for Manhattan College baseball for four decades before their move ahead of the 2015 season. Known as “VCP” in the Jasper vernacular, the park has accumulated the reputation overtime for being undermanaged, but tough and charismatic in its own right.
That sentiment rubbed off on the players who competed there and brought excitement to the fans who attended.
When the team moved 60 miles north to Dutchess County Stadium in 2015, that sentiment began to fade.
I want to be clear in stating that this is no indictment on Manhattan College, who have been transparent in their financial shortcomings to continue hosting the school’s team.
I also want to be clear in stating this is no indictment on the players, men who I have the utmost respect for, and have been nothing but gracious to me as both a friend and teammate.
What I long for is to see the potential energy that a successful Manhattan College baseball team unleashed for the students and community to relish in.
At the time of writing this, the team is off to a 10-10 start so far this season, and will have finished up their first conference series as they attempt to sweep St. Peters Sunday afternoon.
Fabian Peña is one of the best catchers in the country and has the type of talent that the school can rally around.
Joe Jacques is as tough as they come when on the mound and is on a mission to turn his Cinderella walk-on story into a shot with a Major League Baseball farm system come early June.
Basketball season is a beautiful time of the year because it brings our school together in ways that few other on-campus activities do. While baseball may not be close to home right now, 2018 might just be the year they win back the heart of Manhattan College.