Strike 3: Back in the day, before there was NIL, before the transfer portal and COVID made it possible for an athlete to play for six different schools during his “college” career, there were actually college students who chose to attend a school that they wanted to earn degree from and play a sport. Really.

You know what? There are still those kinds of students on college campuses all over the country. And a lot of them like to play baseball, which as we know too well around here, is an endangered species at the collegiate level.

Yes, we have two Division I baseball programs in Colorado. The Air Force Academy has had another strong year, and should be heading into the Mountain West tournament with some momentum after winning a series in California against San Diego State. The Falcons have won the MW tourney before, and could do it again. (Remember, this is where current Pittsburgh Pirates phenom Paul Skenes played his first two seasons of college baseball.) The University of Northern Colorado is wrapping up another tough season in the Summit League, but signs point to a resurgence for the once powerful Bears program that could be coming.

But that’s it for D-I baseball in Colorado.

There are numerous Division II programs around here as well. But if a student wants to attend one of our two major state schools, he’d have to forget about playing baseball.

Or would he?

For those who don’t know or follow, “club” baseball isn’t just for young teenagers anymore. Universities like Colorado and Colorado State offer students a chance to also be athletes and play on the Buffs and Rams “club” teams – sponsored by the recreation departments rather than the money desperate athletic departments. (Club players have to pay a fee to participate, just like those young teenagers.)

That’s right. Deion has zero influence over CU’s baseball program. Really.

The Baseball Buffs did pretty well this season, which ended with a loss to the Kansas Jayhawks (yes, several schools with DI programs also field club teams) in the four-team National Club Baseball Association Mid-America Regional tournament in Kearney, Nebraska over the weekend. This after fourth-seeded CU fell to top-seeded Iowa State (another Big 12 school without a DI baseball program) in Round 1.

Third-seeded Colorado State was in the same tournament, and suffered the exact same fate in reverse order, meaning neither school was able to advance to the NCBA World Series this year.

CSU has won the event, and been crowned club baseball national champ six times. The Rams took two out of three from the Buffs this past season. We missed out on having a Rocky Mountain Baseball showdown in central Nebraska this past weekend. That could have been an interesting storyline.

Club baseball is certainly not on par with their athletic department/varsity counterparts. Games between club teams and area junior college teams typically are won by the JuCo squads. But the club participants do have much more of a right to refer to themselves “student-athletes” than their varsity counterparts do these days.