Mike Abernathy is a man with two full-time jobs. During weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. he’s a scientist for Amgen, the world’s largest biotech firm; the remaining hours of the week, he’s the head coach of the National Club Baseball Association World Series Championship team, the Colorado State Rams.
In four years at the helm of CSU, Abernathy has won three NCBA World Series titles, four Mid-America West conference championships and has had a player drafted in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. This past season, CSU finished the season 35-10, defeating top-seeded Penn State 5-1 in the World Series Championship game.
Abernathy attributes CSU’s consistent success on a national level to three things.
“One, there’s a good crop of talent in the state of Colorado, and there’s really not many places for them to go play,” Abernathy said. “You know you can go to a junior college if you’re looking to get drafted, you can go to a four-year [university] somewhere, you can play Division-II in the [Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference] and then, other than that, it’s club baseball and the best place to go is obviously CSU.”
“Second, we tend to get pitching, we have six guys who can throw 86 [miles per hour] plus,” Abernathy said.
“The final component is the coaching staff. Really, when you get out to the World Series, the teams that are there all have a coaching staff. I’d say, at this time, probably only 20 to 30 percent of club teams have a coaching staff.”
When Title IX forced CSU to drop its NCAA baseball programs in 1993 due to the imbalance of male and female scholarships the programs introduced, there was no organized club team for six years. In 1999, the NCBA was formed and CSU was one of the original 40 teams to join the league. Today, the NCBA is the fourth largest collegiate baseball organization in the U.S. with over 180 teams.
This summer, the CSU athletic department is breaking ground on the 66,267-square-foot athletic indoor practice facility as well as the new academic and training center. To make room for these new buildings, the CSU baseball field, which is now located just south of Moby Arena, will be demolished, forcing the CSU baseball team to relocate its practices and home games to City Park.
“It is, in my opinion, a tragedy that we lost the field – it’s a trademark of the campus,” Abernathy said. “Where else can you find brick dugouts and student-athletes who take care of the field?”
“The university has dumped quite a bit of money into helping us move to City Park and we appreciate that,” Abernathy said. “This year was very tough in regards to facilities and working with CSU to find a place to play all of our games and even places to practice.”
Though they will no longer play on campus in 2009 where students can easily come and watch games, Abernathy said his team will have the talent to win another World Series title next season.
“We’ll be a little bit different team, we won’t hit nearly as many home runs . so they may not be blowouts, but we’ll win our games,” Abernathy said.
Sports writer Matt L Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.