Collegiate baseball in Wyoming is, sadly, an oxymoron. The nearest NCAA D-I baseball programs can found in the Salt Lake area at Utah University and BYU, or at Northern Colorado in Greeley. This is a fact made all the sadder by the initial appearance of Texas Christian University in the College World Series currently underway at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.
Not only are the Horned Frogs at the CWS, but they won their initial round game against baseball powerhouse Florida State. Texas Christian, in short, is representing the Mountain West Conference well by not only bucking the incredible odds to make it to Omaha, but by playing well in the team’s first ever appearance there. They are making a statement for themselves, and their conference, which is also U.W.'s conference even though the Cowboys supply no baseball presence in the MWC.
Sadder than the oxymoron of Wyoming University baseball is the fact that many American Legion players from the Cowboy State cross our border every year to extend their playing career at the collegiate level. Most eventually earn their degree from out-of-state institutions and often never look back in terms in living near their roots.
It isn’t like there are too few quality players in this state to justify a baseball program at U.W. In the 1990’s there were several Wyoming boys in the major leagues, including Mike Lansing, Mike Devereaux, and Tom Browning, not to mention the many, many more who were playing college baseball at the time. And, it is pretty much that way every year in that Wyoming finds a way to fight weather, in-state baseball prejudice, and a small population base to produce more than its share of outstanding players.
Texas Christian University, with less that 8,000 undergraduate students, is not a huge D-I school. The Horned Frog’s presence in Omaha creates the question whether a “bigger” school like Wyoming- student enrollment of well over 10,000- could earn such a trip if the university permitted the program and the athletic department set its mind to the task.
The U.W. administration could no doubt produce a list of practical reasons- mostly financial- not to have a baseball program. Perhaps the most significant of any non-financial rationale might be that when the Cowboys did play baseball, the roster reflected very few players from Wyoming high schools. Well, that might be the proverbial case of that was then, this is now, since one of the state’s growing exports seems to be baseball talent.
The University of Wyoming will most likely continue to limit its athletic scope by ignoring America’s national pastime. Local baseball players will continue to emigrate simply because options at home have been limited to the point of nonexistence. The families and communities of those who leave to seek collegiate baseball will undergo a mental migration as well, following the career of one their own beyond our borders.
While there may be a good many reasons to limit collegiate baseball in Wyoming, there is still the fact that outsiders need not limit Wyoming if Wyoming chooses to do so on its own.