The announcement that Winston-Salem State will be disbanding its highly-successful baseball program hit pretty close to home.
While the current team about 30 players or so on the roster will have to deal with being a lame-duck team, the 15 or so incoming freshmen will have to look elsewhere if they want to play in college.
One of the hardest parts for assistant coaches of the program was giving those recruits’ families a call to let them know what’s going on.
Rob Woodall, the longest tenured assistant coach on Kevin Ritsche’s staff, was there when the program began in 2010. As the hitting coach Woodall has seen it up close how the Rams have won nearly 300 games in nine seasons.
Woodall had to call Darren Asbill, the father of Reagan senior, David, who had signed to play with the Rams next fall.
“It’s really unbelievable,” Darren said by phone on Friday night. “Coach Woodall broke the news to me and my initial reaction was shock.”
What Asbill had trouble comprehending was the sudden announcement that has now left the incoming class in total limbo. Several other local players committed to WSSU for this coming fall but if they do decide to come the baseball program will be long gone.
David Asbill, a talented outfielder for the Raiders, was drawing some recruiting interest from other schools. But the lure of playing at BB&T Ballpark and being close to home swayed him to make a big decision.
“He loved the reception he was got when he went over to visit with the team and the coaches and he played for Coach Woodall in the summer,” Asbill said. “We thought it was a perfect fit for him but if the program was going to end why didn’t the administration let the coaches’ know a little earlier?”
Asbill said there were at least two other schools where his son decided not to send any more information to because he was set on WSSU.
With most of the schools’ having their scholarships accounted for in the up-coming school year (2019-20) it will be tough for Asbill and the other recruits to find a landing spot where they can continue to play baseball.
“What is confusing to us is how successful the program has been (297-160) over nine seasons but the answer for getting rid of the program doesn’t really makes sense,” Asbill said. “I mean, it’s one of the most successful programs there but it’s still getting shut down.”
With the shutdown of the program the rest of the athletics program at WSSU will use the $350,000 it cost to field a baseball team. That money will help other sports, but it’s not something that Asbill was concerned about since his son was affected.
Noah Robinson, a catcher at East Forsyth, also found out this afternoon and took to Twitter. He said in a Twitter post that he’s opened up his recruitment and was disappointed that the announcement was made.
One of the luxuries that Ritsche had when the program began in 2010 was how much baseball talent is around this area. Not everybody can go play Division I baseball, so the opportunities to play in college and get a degree from WSSU was part of Ritsche’s recruiting pitch.
And that same recruiting pitch was something the Asbill family heard.
“The baseball program had one of the highest grade point averages every year and we loved what Ritsche and his assistant coaches stood for,” said Asbill, who played baseball at Mississippi State. “We are just really disappointed in how all of this came about and I’m sure the other families whose sons were going to come here this fall feel the same way.”
Asbill doesn't know if his son will go to WSSU or look at applying to other schools.
"At this point we'll look at our options," he said, "but quite frankly there aren't a lot of options if David wants to play baseball in college."
David said he hopes that Elwood Robinson (the chancellor at WSSU) would reconsider the decision.
"I'm really disappointed because I was looking forward to playing baseball at WSSU," David said. "I really liked the coaches and the players I got to know. Now it is going to be difficult to decide my path for next year. I hope the chancellor might reconsider this decision."