Ravens baseball seeks a change in team culture

Carleton Ravens baseball has sky-high aspirations for where they want their team to go, starting with more public recognition and more support from the university. They are striving to be a more reputable athletic program and behind their head coach and president, they plan on achieving it.

Despite playing a vastly popular sport in Canada, the team is classified as a competitive club at Carleton, having yet to reach varsity status.

Varsity clubs are given more funding from the university, and generally receive more attention from both the university’s students and the general public. Carleton currently has 15 varsity teams and 18 competitive clubs listed on its website.

As well, most competitive clubs have to leave the bulk of team planning to the players themselves. Fortunately enough for the baseball team, they were able to appoint George Rigakos, a Carleton criminology professor with a passion for baseball, to help structure the team.

Rigakos said he has always loved baseball and that he took on the volunteer responsibilities of team president to give back to the Carleton community. Part of his role is finding ways to get the team funding for the season.

Although they have been able to make ends meet, Rigakos said that he wishes the university could support the team more.

“It would be nice to have more support from the school in a monetary way, however we are not asking for handouts,” he said. “We have our own programs which helps our funding. If there was monetary matching system, that would be great for our club.”

According to Carleton Athletics, they are partnered with the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) to provide a combined $50,000 in grants to Carleton’s slate of competitive clubs.

But Rigakos said money is not the only issue, as there is also the matter of recognition.

“All of the students should feel like they are representing the school in the same manner. For example, there is no athletic banquet for the clubs. We are not invited to the [varsity] athletic banquet. We would love for the student union to recognize these athletes as student athletes,” said Rigakos.

Jennifer Brenning, Carleton’s athletic director, said that Athletics is looking into how they can better recognize the school’s competitive club athletes.

“We are now investigating what other universities do for their competitive clubs and will discuss with CUSA on what we should do for a year-end recognition event,” Brenning said in an email.

Despite his frustration, Rigakos said that he appreciates the support CUSA provides for the competitive clubs. He said he understands the reasoning for certain policies, although they can sometimes make his job more difficult.

The Ravens have also continued to strengthen the work ethic and commitment of their players; what they view as another key step in making the program more relevant.

Ravens baseball players say the team has had a major shift in attitude ever since Andre Robidoux came on as head coach.

Robidoux was a Division I college baseball player in the United States before playing, and now coaching, for Carleton. He has been a leader in bringing more intensity and professionalism to the team, which has remained continuous throughout his five years in charge.

“My message to the team is if we play like a varsity team, as in intensity level and level of commitment, we will feel more accomplished and others will take us more seriously,” Robidoux said.

It is clear that the players have embraced the culture that their coach has adopted for the club. In fact, most of Robidoux’s players say they keep up their baseball training schedules even during the off-season. Some of them have even joined the team he manages during the summer.

At least one Ravens player said he believes that the program’s recent improvements have helped give the club increased recognition.

“During my first year with the club, most of Carleton didn’t know we had a baseball team. With the summer camps for the kids and a [May 2017] trip to the United States, our club gained more awareness. Now, more students will recognize that we have a good baseball program and that will attract new talent,” Ravens pitcher Curtis Lacelle said.

When asked about what he would like to see from his club in the future, Rigakos said he has high expectations.

“I would love to see the team compete to become a championship team,” he said. “I think we can achieve that with the current strides we have taken.”

The Ravens will be hosting open tryouts for the upcoming season on August 15, 16 and 17.

Photo by Pedro Vasconcellos