Team struggles to move forward

Men’s baseball must compete in the OUA despite sanctions that left them with 11 suspended players

The men's baseball team only has six returning players after Queen's Athletics suspended 11 players for an alcohol-related incident that occurred in 2011.
The men's baseball team only has six returning players after Queen's Athletics suspended 11 players for an alcohol-related incident that occurred in 2011.
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The men’s baseball team has 15 rookies this season. They fell 9-3 to the Toronto Varsity Blues at Megaffin Park on Wednesday night.
The men’s baseball team has 15 rookies this season. They fell 9-3 to the Toronto Varsity Blues at Megaffin Park on Wednesday night.
Photo: 

A Queen’s-imposed sanction means the men’s baseball team will play this season with only six returning players. Eleven players from last year’s team are serving two-year suspensions from Queen’s Athletics and Recreation for two alcohol-related incidents over the past two years.

Athletics imposed sanctions against the baseball program last year after players were found drinking alcohol on the team bus on the way back from a game against the Waterloo Warriors on Sept. 25, 2010. An Athletics discipline panel decided the team had violated the Student-Athlete Guidelines for Behaviour and had committed a “major infraction” in non-academic judicial policy.

The first-year players on the team bus that night were required to attend courses on alcohol education and serve 40 hours of community service each. But players who were also involved in an alcohol-related incident at a 2009 rookie party were charged with a repeat infraction and given two-year suspensions from the baseball program.

The baseball team is on probation for three seasons, with the understanding that “any future misconduct, violations and/or infractions” over the probationary period will lead to the suspension of the program.

Athletics and Recreation director Leslie Dal Cin oversaw the discipline panel made up of Athletics’ staff members. The panel submitted a verdict to Dal Cin, who made the final decision.

In a letter to the team informing them of the sanctions, Dal Cin told 2010 captain Sandy Clarke that the panel considered “the interests and long-term future of the program, requirements related to leadership … compliance with policies and procedures as well as commitments made to the league and peer institutions.” In her letter, she said the actions of the 11 suspended players were “deeply concerning and extremely disappointing.”

Dal Cin told the Journal the discipline panel imposed sanctions because the baseball team disrespected Athletics’ expectations for all varsity athletes.

“We’re about creating opportunities for our student-athletes, we’re not about taking them away,” she said. “But when we have teams that go offside of what our student-athlete guidelines for behaviour are ... those are things that we take seriously.”

Dal Cin said she modified the panel’s initial verdict because she thought it was too harsh.

“The panel’s decision was to suspend the program, period,” she said. “I modified the decision because I felt that we had made an obligation to the OUA to participate and by suspending the program we’d actually be hurting our sister institutions who were competing with us.”

This season, former assistant coach Ken Spicer has taken over as head coach and 15 rookies have joined the roster.

Dal Cin said while the sanctions may affect the team this season, her decision will strengthen the program.

“The culture of the program that we had last year was not conducive to being a competitive program … on an ongoing basis,” she said. “In the long term I’m sure we’re in a much better place.”

Third baseman and pitcher Dave Boccia was one of the suspended players on the team last year. He said while he understands the team deserved the sanction, the discipline was too drastic.

“What [Athletics] did was detrimental to the program,” he said. “We were on the right track and [the suspensions] just kind of ruined everything we built.”

Boccia said the suspended players accepted they were wrong and they understand the sanctions. But he said it’s difficult to come to terms with the nature of the punishment.

“[It was] one of the best things we’ve had going for us at the school,” he said. “I miss it a lot this year already.”

Outfielder Kirby Davidson is a suspended player who’s staying involved with the team this year. He said he was given permission to act as an informal coach after extensive talks with Dal Cin and Recreation and Sports Clubs manager Jeff Downie.

Davidson said the sanctions will have a major effect on the team’s performance this season.

“There are four or five of us that, had we stuck around, could have made this team a lot better than it is right now,” he said.

The team is 0-2 after losing to the Toronto Varsity Blues 9-3 on Wednesday.

Like most other players, Davidson said he thought the sanctions were too harsh. But having been on Athletics’ radar since the 2009 rookie night incident, he said the punishment was inevitable.

“When it comes down to it, we were repeat offenders,” he said. “If [the suspension] was what they thought was right, we don’t have the right to fight it.”

The two-year suspension means Davidson’s Queen’s baseball career is likely over. But the fourth-year student said the program won’t suffer long-term consequences.

“It’s actually helped this program in terms of wiping the slate clean and taking us into a new era,” he said. “There’s a big turnover in players, so we have a really positive silver lining for what’s to come.”

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