The Cal baseball team this year went from the Sad News Bears to potential national champions, as the squad that was until just a few months ago slated for termination survived its near-death experience to advance to the College World Series for the first time since 1992.
Earlier this week, KQED's Stephanie Martin talked to David Esquer, the team's head coach, and to Stuart Gordon, the head of Save Cal Baseball, which led a massive fundraising drive to...well...save Cal Baseball after last year's announcement by the university that it was cutting the team, along with four others, for budgetary reasons.
Listen below. Edited transcripts after the audio:
Given what you've gone through, how does it feel to be going to the College World Series?
It's' cliché but it's been storybook to go from the brink of extinction to the Collegege World Series. Even though at the start of the year I knew we were talented enough to have a good year and win a super regional given the opportunity. But going through what the kids went through, it's almost too good to have it actually happen.
How are they feeling right now?
The looks on their faces are priceless. This is what you dream of when you become a college baseball player. Many players choose to play college baseball and forego a professional career because they want to get to the World Series.
It's a validation to people who stood behind us to bring us back. I think they feel so proud that they've proven worthy of people who have stepped up to the tune of over nine-and-a-half million dollars. They feel so grateful to people who've done that, but I also think they feel they've given something back to them.
Stuart Gordon, the head of the Save Cal Baseball campaign, pitched for Cal from 1958 to 1962 and has been a perennial booster of the program.
After all the ups and downs of this year it's unbelievably exciting. All the supporters and fans are excited. I've been deluged with emails by so many people who are excited about the team and about the fact that the team is alive and well.
Will success help solidify future of the team?
Definitely. Everybody is so enthusiastic. There are baseball fans that are coming out of the woodwork who have been somewhat complacent over the years. Nobody is complacent now. Everyone realizes the value of what we've accomplished in saving the Cal baseball program. This is a great story and I hope it keeps getting better.
Here's a video of the final out that advanced Cal to the World Series: