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D-I baseball in El Paso, maybe someday

Recently at a local sporting goods store, I noticed a rack full of Under Armour UTEP baseball shirts. I am not really sure why they even exist since baseball at UTEP does not. It was like a stab in my baseball super-fan heart.

Baseball at UTEP ended in 1985 following the best season in UTEP baseball history. The team won 33 games that year, but then-Athletic Director Bill Cords said that an increase in state tuition meant that the school could not afford baseball anymore. I have no idea how that makes any sense.

The reason that UTEP still does not have baseball is NCAA’s Title IX. The statute ensures that schools have a comparable amount of female students to female athletes. UTEP currently does not meet the standard and has a lot of work to do before anything will change.

Until there are more women’s sports added, there will be no baseball. That will probably not happen for a long time—if at all.

For the foreseeable future, any good baseball players from El Paso that want to play close to home will continue to go to El Paso Community College.

Since the UTEP baseball program ended, EPCC has seen 20 players drafted by Major League Baseball teams—most recently, third baseman Eudor Garcia. Garcia was drafted by the New York Mets in the fourth round of last June’s draft.

As fun as it was to watch Eudor make home runs for the Tejanos, I could not help but picture him in UTEP orange and blue.

El Paso has a proud baseball history that UTEP used to play a part in. It is very sad to say that it will not play a part in that history, as long as any of us are here.

The Miners’ baseball team was managed by the most famous baseball player that El Paso has ever seen. Andy Cohen played for John McGraw’s New York Giants, making his debut in 1926. At a time when anti-Semitism was beginning to rear its ugly head, Cohen was basically the Jackie Robinson of Jewish baseball players. He was the first Jewish major leaguer and quickly became one of the most popular ballplayers in New York—perhaps only second to some guy named Babe Ruth.

His brother Syd also played and managed in the majors. The stadium in Northeast El Paso that used to house the Diablos is named Cohen Stadium after both of the brothers.

Although, it is on the other side of the mountain, it is a baseball stadium that is just sitting there being unused. I am just throwing that out there—seeing as how a lack of facilities is one excuse that the administration has used in the past to justify the lack of a Division I college baseball program.

It is most definitely not a fitting honor for two men who played such a huge role in UTEP and El Paso baseball history to tear it down.

Cohen coached the Miners with his brother Syd until 1978. Two coaches later, Bill Kinneberg would be at the helm when the Miners won 33 games to close out this portion of baseball’s history at UTEP.

A big part of the 1985 team was pitcher Mike Maddux—if you are a baseball fan, you may be familiar with the last name. Mike is the brother of baseball hall of famer Greg Maddux. Mike is the best player to ever come out of the UTEP baseball program. He pitched in the majors for 15 years.

Mike is currently the pitching coach with the Texas Rangers. He would be a prime candidate to come back home and coach the Miners’ baseball team, should the need arise. If there is a little bit of hope to be had, it is that UTEP president Dr. Diana Natalicio has stated that baseball is her favorite sport. So, at least we baseball fans have that hope to hold on to.

In the meantime, my son and I will be heading to Maddux’s Rangers Spring Training in Arizona—where hope springs eternal for all men. I will be wearing my UTEP baseball cap. My son will be wearing his Under Armour UTEP baseball shirt.

Jason Green may be reached at [email protected].

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D-I baseball in El Paso, maybe someday