Music and cheers greeted Cal's baseball team -- the Disenfranchised Three Dozen -- as it romped onto the field Sunday for its twice-delayed season opener.
It was a raw day, but an invigorating one for the century-old program which, you might have heard, faces extinction at season's end. The Bears shut out Utah 7-0 in the first game of a doubleheader. They won the second game with a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth.
It was a respite from reality for friends of the program. And isn't everybody a friend of the embattled program these days?
Paul and Ann Flemer, being Cal graduates, have an emotional stake in the program. They have a personal one as well -- their son Matt is a pitcher on this year's team. Sunday they were stationed outside Evans Diamond selling Save Cal Baseball T-shirts, handing out buttons and information cards, and accepting donations.
"That was empty when we started," Paul Flemer said, pointing to a large jar nearly filled with bills of various denominations. "This isn't going to save the program, but "... "
The jar told a powerful story. It's no small feat these days to get passers-by to pull money out of their wallets and relinquish it on faith. But the jar also speaks to the staggering enormity of the fight ahead. All the outrage, good intentions, energy, creativity and righteousness will not change the bottom line, as established by school officials. Ten million dollars, they say, is what
That would be the Flemers' jar, multiplied by about 100,000.
Give the friends of the program high marks for effort. Former Cal player Sam Petke, now aligned with Save Cal Sports, arranged something of a coup. With a phone call to Cal alum Larry Baer, now president of the Giants, he secured a visit from the World Series trophy at Sunday's doubleheader.
It rolled in during the sixth inning of the first game, delivered in a black pickup customized with Giants imagery. Within minutes, the line of fans seeking an audience was 100 feet long.
"I asked Larry to bring the trophy here to help build a bridge between this program and the Giants," Petke said. "We're trying to come up with ideas that make sense for both parties."
A financial component would make sense for Cal baseball. As for what might be in it for the Giants:
"Being able to scout the best players in the country in your own backyard is an incredible opportunity," Petke said. "And not just Cal players. Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum played on this field."
Petke is persuasive, and his point was well taken -- nearly two dozen speed gun-toting scouts were at Sunday's event. Cal baseball fans might recall Petke being equally persistent. He played just 31 games during his first three seasons at Cal, hitting .129. In his senior season, current coach David Esquer's first in Berkeley, Petke played 35 games with a .273 average and .477 slugging percentage.
Clearly he isn't easily deterred. Getting a visit from the World Series trophy is a good get. That said, it's also more than the Save Cal Baseball movement has received from the A's.
"Those conversations haven't progressed as much," Petke said.
If Petke had asked Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour -- and he might have; they chatted during Sunday's first game -- she could have advised him about the rigors of raising massive funds.
"That would be awesome," Barbour said of the Save Cal Baseball movement's grand plans. "We want the same thing. We'd love to have baseball at Cal. We just have to be able to afford it."
Barbour, of course, has come under withering criticism from the likes of former Cal baseball players Doug Nickle and Bryan Price. And while emotions are still understandably high, that part of the process is now moot from a practical standpoint. The decision has been made. The task ahead of the friends who wish to save Cal baseball is available in high definition.
And brother, it's a big task. Because when you're talking about sustaining a team of 36 young men who travel from Pullman, Wash., to Tempe, Ariz., over the course of a 53-game season, you're talking about a business model that doesn't exist. Yet.
Sunday, then, was a matter of perspective. The Cal baseball team is undefeated. Its fans, while undaunted, are looking up at an eight-figure deficit.
Contact Gary Peterson at email@example.com.