Columbia College baseball returns after 35 years

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COLUMBIA - After almost four decades, the Columbia College Cougars baseball team will return to the diamond in March 2017. 

The re-introduction of the team to Columbia College is a part of the school's athletic department's five year plan.

"It really involves all facets of the department. In terms of sport offerings, current facilities, facility improvements, staffing, really every phase of what we do," Athletic Director Bob Burchard said.

The school has added 10 varsity National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics teams since 2012.

"We've actually grown from approximately 75 student athletes to heading close to 300 student athletes. It's a transformational change for our entire campus, much less just our department. Baseball is really a cornerstone of that," Burchard said.

Darren Munns was appointed head baseball coach in June of 2015, and spent the last year and a half recruiting his team for this coming spring. 

"I have high expectations. I think we can be very competitive in our league, year one," Munns said. 

Columbia College is part of the American Midwest Conference (AMC) along with nine other teams. Munns said he has two main qualities he recruits on.

"First and foremost, character and work ethic. And that's very cliché but I think it makes all the difference in the world. There's enough talented baseball players out there. If you can take that talented group but also bear down on guys that are going to work and be high character representatives of Columbia College and Columbia College baseball that's really important," Munns said.

With a campus landlocked in the heart of Columbia, the school had to look elsewhere to find a place to play. It announced in November that the Black Field at Atkins Park would be where the Cougars baseball team would call home. 

"It's undergoing a major face lift right now that will be ready when we open in the spring," Munns said. "They've completely redone the infield with a professional grade infield mix, redoing the dugouts, bullpens have been redone, all the fencings are being redone, and adding batting cages and a storage shed on site."

Burchard said the addition of baseball to the campus will be a good one.

"Having 40 baseball players on campus this fall has been super positive. They've been very involved in other activities on campus as well, so we're really looking forward to getting out in the spring and supporting their play as well," Burchard said.

The Cougars will begin their season on Feb. 2 on the road against Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee. They will play at home for the first time on March 3 against Williams Baptist College.