YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Eastern Gateway Community College held a fundraiser Saturday evening for its forthcoming athletic program.
Youngstown State President Jim Tressel was there. At the end of his speech, he joked, “For the first time in my life, I’m happy to say ‘Go Gators!'”
All jokes aside, the schools believe their bond will help bring even more students to Youngstown.
“[The new athletic program] could bring more students to Eastern Gateway,” Tressel said. “Which then, it gives [YSU] a chance for them to be close-by, so we can recruit them into our academic program — and then maybe into our baseball program at some point.”
Baseball is the first sport in Eastern Gateway’s new athletic program.
Team training starts in the fall, as the Gators will compete in the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference as part of the National Junior Association.
“We currently have 16 players verbally committed,” said head coach Jason Stanford. “We’re looking for a roster of about 25 guys and we’ll start in the fall of 2017 and go from there.”
“It’s nice to have more local schools — junior college schools — in the area,” said Zach Johnson, a committed EGCC baseball player. “Youngstown [State] was really the only school. [Eastern Gateway] gives local kids in Ohio a chance to go to school for cheaper and still play baseball.”
Tressel and Eastern Gateway President Jim Bruce say building this athletic program will open the door for more potential student athletes from outside of the Valley to come to Youngstown, too.
But right now, Eastern Gateway only has funding for its baseball team.
“You have to pay coaches, you have uniforms and equipment and travel,” Bruce said.
Eventually the school wants to add a softball team and keep building from there.
“More than anything else, it just generates enthusiasm and support for the college and also for the community,” Bruce said.
Eastern Gateway is still figuring out what field the baseball team will use for home games. It hopes to have that answer soon.