The UNITAS 53-2012 Pacific Phase naval exercise will be held this year in the waters off the Peruvian coast and will include the participation of the Navies of the United States, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and the host country, Peru. The Naval units will begin to arrive at the port of Callao on May 12, departing on May 16 for the area where the different exercises will be held, and returning on May 26. For that purpose, a planning and evaluation meeting was held at Peruvian Navy (MGP) facilities, where attendees were introduced to the program and objectives of the exercises, which on this occasion will evaluate the participation of the different units under one operational command, crisis management, anti-piracy operations, and international organized crime, among other areas. The various commands that will participate in the event were also determined during the meeting. The Air Defense Command and the Electronic Warfare Command will be led by the U.S. Navy; the Surface Warfare Command will be the responsibility of the Ecuadorean Navy; the Anti-Submarine Warfare Command and the Search-and-Rescue Command will be led by the MGP; and the Maritime Interdiction Command will be the responsibility of the Colombian Navy. By Dialogo March 29, 2012
May 10, 1991, they came dressed for a funeral. On this day the official colors of the University of Wisconsin baseball team where not cardinal and white, but black.It was the final day of competition for the team not just for the season, but forever. So, for the team’s doubleheader versus Purdue every player wore black caps, black stirrups, black cleats and black undershirts to mourn the death of the baseball program.It isn’t everyday you say a 117-year-old died too soon, but that is definitely the case here.”It’s a sad day, not only for the Big Ten but for college baseball,” Iowa Coach Duane Banks said after UW baseball team lost its final appeal. “It’s an absolute sin that something like this has to happen.”At the very least the program went under with dignity, splitting its doubleheader with the Boilermakers, though symbolically, in its final game, the baseball team simply couldn’t muster enough offense to fight back, losing 1-0, much in the same way it couldn’t fight against being a cost casualty anymore.Head coach Steve Land and the Wisconsin Dugout Club fought gallantly against the move to cut baseball, but in the end the Athletic Department chairs won — and lost.With Wisconsin’s history in its final hours the ball was handed to freshman pitcher Jason Schlutt to make the final start of his UW career, and the final start in the career of UW.Schlutt, a young talent from Baroda, Mich., with a 2-5 record and 4.46 ERA, was young enough not to feel the pressure, admitting that it wasn’t until after the game that he fully realized the ramifications.”During the game it was all about winning,” Schlutt said.It was just like any other game that season for Schlutt and the Badgers, who had spent the duration of the year knowing that the program was going under.”That was a weird feeling, going from place-to-place for the last time,” said Brett Wyngarden, who was the designated hitter during the last game. “It was like some sad farewell tour.”Schlutt on the other hand, viewed every game as an opportunity, not only to pick up a win, but to pick up a new home. Most players on the team had a year’s advance notice to transfer, so games were dress rehearsals for prospective transfers.”Personally, being a freshman, you started to notice that every series was sort of like a tryout, for the team we were playing against,” related Schlutt “We were really just struggling to get some wins at that time in the Big Ten, so the whole gravity of the thing hadn’t hit yet. Plus, there was still hope at that point.”Schlutt got off to a strong start, striking out two batters in the first inning. However the Badger hitters were following suit, unable to touch Purdue’s pitching — starter Jason Smith. Ironically, the move to cut baseball was recommended by then brand-new athletic director Pat Richter, who was himself a baseball player and all-conference selection in 1963. According to Richter, the decision to dump baseball was based on the state’s poor spring weather, inadequate facilities and Title IX considerations that require equitable spending for men’s and women’s sports.However, the biggest reason was surely the $1.95 million deficit in the athletic department budget, during the dark days of UW athletics, before the rebirth of the football program.”It’s a situation where you put on blinders and say, ‘Look, you have to cut back,'” said Richter, who years later, after his tenure as A.D. was over, would look back and call cutting baseball the hardest decision he ever made at Wisconsin.With five innings in the books, Schlutt was still smoking, tearing through the Purdue lineup, having faced only two batters over the minimum. It was still a stalemate, a classic pitcher’s duel, as Smith matched Schlutt pitch for pitch. The UW team captain Tom O’Neill had gotten on base twice, and twice stolen second, but was left stranded both times, as Tom Vilet, hitting behind O’Neill struck out twice. Opportunities missed …Cutting baseball did make sense, especially in 1991, when the entire the athletic department was sinking in debt.For one, the weather truly was god-awful early in the year, especially since the team rarely traveled to out-of-state tournaments, like the softball team currently does, when the weather is still prone to being so inclement, through March and into April.”From a revenue base and from an environment point, I totally understand why baseball was cut,” Schlutt said. “Some of the spring days when it is caught between rain and snow, with the wind blowing off the lake you would look at each other and say ‘what are we doing out here?'”The facilities and their placement were also very much undesirable at the time, as Guy Lowman Field hadn’t even had a press box until just a couple years before the program was killed. It was positioned where Goodman Diamond now sits, across the way from UW Hospital, behind the Neilson Tennis Stadium.”Where Guy Lowman was, any time the wind blew, it was cold and the field didn’t drain very well,” said former Badger pitcher Lance Painter, who later went on to a prosperous 11-year career in the major leagues. “Then one day later I was watching ESPN2 and I saw Guy Lowman Field and it was a softball field now, so I guess if they would’ve put some money into it then, it could’ve been a pretty neat place.”Joe Girardi, a Northwestern grad and currently managing the Florida Marlins once described playing a double-header against UW in an 8-degree wind chill, saying he was just thankful he was catching and able to move around.Another factor was fan support. While it was fantastic for the season and historical finale, was also typically poor.”If you think about Wisconsin, it was a football and hockey town,” Painter said. “I know when I was there, very few people actually knew there was baseball team on campus.””Some games there were no fans at all, just some of the players’ girlfriends that were brave enough to sit out there,” said Schlutt.In the sixth inning disaster struck. Schlutt gave up a single to Purdue’s Phil Hollis, driving in right fielder Craig Robertson and giving the Boilermakers the narrowest of leads. However, on this day, that margin was looking more and more insurmountable as Smith continued to keep the Badger bats silent.Wisconsin’s baseball history had its moments. The school won or tied for five Big Ten Championships, though none of them after 1950. There had been many players to move on to successful pro careers, like Harvey Kuenn, Red Wilson, Lance Painter and Rick Reichardt.In truth, the Badgers were, at best, mediocre and at worst, perennial Big Ten doormats.The final Wisconsin totals included 1,445 victories and 1,278 losses — above .500, at least.Could the Badger program have been successful? Was there even the remote chance of being consistently competitive in the Big Ten?”It goes in cycles. Obviously the Minnesotas, the Michigans, the Illinois, they were the better programs, but there was always room after those top three,” Painter said. “I believe that the program was heading in the right direction.””We had players who could play the game,” Wyngarden said. “But there was plenty to build on.”Land points to Notre Dame, whose program was very similar to UW’s in the early 90s, before the Fighting Irish received a wealth of new funding. Today, the Fighting Irish are among the best of the Midwest.It was the bottom of the seventh. Schlutt had done his part, doing a superb job at damage control and leaving Wisconsin down one. But it was not to be as Wyngarden made the final out of the game.”I didn’t realize until that last out was made against Purdue that ‘Hey, I’m not going to play for Wisconsin anymore’,” Schlutt said.”It’s been a trying situation for everyone involved,” a tearful Land said after the final game. “I can’t say enough about this group. The way they’ve responded to everything has been incredible.”The overwhelming feeling was one of disbelief that it was all truly over.”I knew something was going on, but what I thought was that they might cut into the budget. I didn’t believe that they could actually cut the program,” Painter said.”I think we all kind of thought that someone was going to come in and save the day and that the sport was not going to be cut. I mean it’s the University of Wisconsin and baseball is a major sport.”To this day Schlutt holds the game ball from the final out. He one day hopes to be able to throw it on opening day of UW’s new program. But will that program ever come?”I would like nothing more than to see that program come back. I would support it fully, not only emotionally but financially too,” Schlutt said. “In fact I’d love to come back and coach. For something to be around that long and then just disappear the year you show up, it’s just mind-boggling.”There have been no signs of Wisconsin officials showing any interest in a new program. So for now, the last image of the University of Wisconsin baseball team will be one of mourning — one dressed in black.