This is my tribute to ERAU’s 25th year of NAIA sanctioned baseball (2013). I played for the team just prior to this official intercollegiate era when the ERAU Baseball Team was still a club back in 1983-1985.
(and here’s a more readable version)
Ode to Eagle Baseball by Mark L Berry
25 Years of Embry Riddle athletics—wow. Back in my day (1983-1985) prior to ERAU’s inclusion as an NAIA member, the baseball team was technically a club, and we answered to the Student Activities department much like the SCUBA and the chess clubs. We bought our own uniforms and provided our own transportation to our few self-scheduled road games. We enjoyed such lavish club benefits as thirty free photocopies per month in the Student Activities office, and we were allowed to hoist a giant paper announcement banner inside the University Center any week that we’d successfully scheduled a home game—but mostly we played before less than a handful of my teammates girlfriends and wives. Once, we painted a jockstrap on our baseball banner with the slogan: We Need Supporters. Our attempt to attract a larger audience using this humorous promotion only earned us a stern verbal warning from Student Activities, and our meager privileges were put on probation.
The fields we played on were not like the lush grass and manicured infield maintained inside the glorious stadium that I discovered while visiting the Daytona Beach campus. Back in the mid eighties, the east side of Clyde Morris Blvd—where Eagle Stadium now stands—was nothing but woodlands.
We practiced and played many of our games on several sandlot ball fields tucked in against Runway 16 by the airport terminal. I have a special place in my heart for those fields, and the memory is usually triggered after wolfing a bowl of chili. Recollections of fire-ant bites and stings must trigger the same part of my gray matter as heartburn. The fire ants were the only downside to an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable several seasons as an ERAU Eagle. I remember joking with my teammates about our great shifting defense. I don’t know how our catcher maintained his steady posture behind the plate, but the eight of us out in the field would pace in small circles to prevent the fire ants from climbing up our stretched socks stirrups.
I remember feeling like a pro while sliding into second base and nearly a dozen umpires calling me safe—while several more simultaneously screamed: You’re out! We shared these fields with the Wendelstedt Umpire School, and they often lined up more men in black than we fielded players in blue.
At the plate, curveballs gave me more trouble than Professor Kumpula’s 7 a.m. Aircraft Performance class. His quizzes burned like spitballs set on fire. They always contained three seemingly logical choices, and then the much-feared additional options: Select choice D for all of the above, or choice E for none of the above.
We played some powerhouse teams while they were in town for spring training—unofficially. Our shifting defense didn’t distract them at all, and these disciplined, competitive teams routinely trounced us. The professional umpire experience probably left more of an impression than our futile level of competition. Nevertheless, we felt every bit like legitimate college ball players, paving the way for today’s sanctioned school team.
The ERAU Eagles have come a long way. I wish you all a safe, fun, and successful 2013 season. Go out and make me proud, and beware of the fire ants.
Cheers, Mark L Berry
BS in Aero Science – ERAU, Dec. 1985
MFA in Creative Writing – Fairfield University, Jan. 2012