The history of Profs’ baseball

1978_baseball
1978 Championship Team- photo courtesy of Rowan Athletics

Leading up to this season, which starts next Sunday at 2:30, the Profs have been a very successful, well-coached team over the past 40 years. 

Even before Rowan got it’s name, they were — back then known as the Glassboro State College Profs — a team of fundamentals and consistency. From 1977 till 1979, they won the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship title each year and subsequently earned a seed in the NCAA DIII (Division III) Tournament (teams who win the NJAC championship are automatically given a seed in the Division III tournament). Two of those three years culminated in a Division III championship, first in 1978 (in a 5-3 win over Marietta College), and finally in 1979 (in a 3-0 win over Cal State Stanislaus).

Six-years ago, the university honored the 1978 championship team (see photo above), with an induction for the entire team- for all 40 members, including (the late) head coach Mickey Briglia and assistant head coach George Gerstle. Remarkably, Briglia not only was the coach for the team’s two championship seasons (see above) in ’78 and ’79, but he coached the team for a quarter of a century (from 1964-1988).

Briglia not only was a college manager but a former player, too, having graduated and earning a B.A. in education with Ohio University in 1950. During his playing time there, he not only was a third baseman but the team’s co-captain during his senior year. From player to manager, he brought wisdom, and earned praise and respect by everybody around him at Glassboro State. Hopefully Mike Dickson can accomplish the same feats as Briglia did in his time here.

Not only was Briglia well respected here, but in 1994, then known as Rowan College, the college inducted him into their Sports Hall of Fame. On top of that, he also has an award honored in his name. Known as the Dr. Michael Briglia Scholar Athletic Award, the award annually honors a Rowan senior male athlete with whom possesses skill, attitude and dedication to athletics. Great coaches like that hardly ever happen for Rowan, so Mike Dickson certainly has his work cut out for him.

Also of note, according to NJ.com columnist Bob Shryock, Briglia was a good friend of the late Richard Wackar (with whom the team’s football field is named after). Wackar is not only credited as the team’s basketball coach from 1956-63, preceding Briglia, but the one — as well as Briglia — who resurrected the team’s football program.

In team history, ever since the 1966 Major League Baseball Draft, 24 Profs’ players have been selected to play in the majors. The highest Profs’ player ever drafted was catcher Dominic Antonini in 1977, who was drafted 26th overall by the Seattle Mariners. Despite being drafted high, he never played a single game in the major leagues. Only two other Profs’ players in history were drafted in the fifth round or fewer, outfielder Steve Murray in 1980 (109th overall) and fellow outfielder David Carter in 1974 (108th overall).

In the next five to 10 years, will the team be lucky enough to have a player worthy of being drafted? Neither of the other two other players (see last paragraph) ever made it to the big leagues either. If head coach Mike Dickson, who’ll be interviewed by me sometime later this week, can successfully groom a guy like infielder Matt Jolly, who’s a senior, to be even better than he was the past couple of years, then great.

In 40 games last season, he hit .344, including six doubles, and a .408 on-base-percentage, good enough for second best on the team (behind only fellow senior, outfielder, Eric Oliver (.439). Jolly was a successful junior college baseball player, too. Two years ago with Rowan at Gloucester County College, he hit .297 and drove in 25 runs. Jolly has previous playoff experience, as he was a part of the RAGCG team that went to the Division III World Series that season against Nassauu County Community College in New York. Some new Major League Baseball talent coming out of Rowan would be phenomenal.

Starting with the team’s early success and leading up until now, as former president John F. Kennedy put it, “those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

There is certainly a lot of good baseball to look forward to this season.

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