Every fall, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point holds an open tryout for its baseball team. Players of all styles and backgrounds come to prove they deserve a shot at being a Pointer.
A mix of students, from juniors to freshman, show up with high hopes of making one of the best Division III baseball programs in the Midwest.
This fall a total of 58 players decided to give cracking the Pointer baseball roster a try. In the end, only 12 will make the team.
Included in this 58 are 8 recruited incoming freshmen, a plethora of walk-ons, and some players who were formerly recruited but didn’t make the team on their first try. On average, only one or two walk-ons make the team per season, so they have an uphill battle in front of them.
The tryout takes place early in the school year, lasts four days and puts players through tests and game time to see if they deserve a spot on the team.
The first day of tryouts consists of base tests, such as timed sprints, clocking how fast you can throw the ball and a timed mile run.
The next three days are what really set good players apart because they are separated into two teams and play three scrimmage games against each other.
The coaches aren’t just running the tryouts. Players from last year’s team come out to help guide and instruct the incoming talent.
One of these current Pointer baseball players is new team captain Jacob Herbst, who still remembers when he tried out for the team his freshman year.
“I was really nervous when I first tried out,” said Herbst. “I came from a small town school where if you wanted to play you just showed up.”
Herbst was recruited to play at UWSP but said that he was still nervous about getting cut after the tryouts.
While some might have confidence that being recruited guarantees a player a spot, this is not the case.
Take Sam Arnott, a graduate from Tomahawk High School, who was recruited to play his freshman year for UWSP but is now trying out for the third time. Arnott, a second baseman, was the victim of bad luck his first two seasons. He was the last player cut to bring the team down to its standard 30 players.
Even under these circumstances, Arnott manages to stay positive.
“At first it hurt. In my mind I’ve had what it takes both times, but the chips just didn’t fall my way. It definitely was a huge motivator however,” said Arnott.
“It went from just playing ball to wanting to prove that I could play a high level of college baseball here in Point, proving to myself, all my friends and family and to the coaching staff that I deserve to be here,” said Arnott.
This year Arnott hopes it will be different.
“In past tryouts I took some time off during the off-season which put me behind some other guys. This year has been constant work that hopefully will pay off,” said Arnott.
Recruited players aren’t the only ones that come back for more tryouts; many walk-ons give their all more than once, like David Newman.
Newman is a sophomore from Wasilla, Alaska, and went to the same high school as Sarah Palin. Newman, primarily a pitcher and outfielder, didn’t come to Stevens Point for baseball but for its excellent academic program.
“I came here because my grandparents live in Wisconsin Rapids, and I also heard that there was a good pre-med program,” said Newman. “Then I knew there was a good baseball program here, so I decided I should try out.”
Newman explained his goals haven’t changed for this second tryout.
“I want to go out there and give it 100 percent, and if I do that but don’t make the team, I can’t hang my head because I know that I gave it my all,” said Newman.
Of course, among all of these incoming walk-ons and returning candidates is the new crop of recruited freshman, including Bryton Guckenberg.
Guckenberg is a long way from his home of Eureka, Montana, but like Newman he came for more than the baseball program.
“I have relatives that live in the area,” said Guckenberg. “Another reason for choosing UWSP was because of its amazing Natural Resource program.”
Guckenberg also cited the success of the baseball program, the facilities and campus as major reasons he chose UWSP.
The recruiting process for Guckenberg was incredibly challenging because his high school didn’t have a baseball team.
“The only baseball we have is Ame r i c a n Legion, which is a summer league,” said Guckenberg.
A limited number of scouts seeing his games also stood as an issue for Guckenberg to pursue his future in baseball.
“I ended up having to fill out a lot of baseball questionnaires for different schools and send coaches videos and stats to get my name out,” said Guckenberg. “I spoke to a lot of different coaches and visited several colleges before I decided on Point.”
Guckenberg will try out in the outfield for UWSP after playing multiple positions for his American Legion team this summer.
“My expectations for the tryouts are to work hard and show off my skills,” said Guckenberg. “I also think it will be fun because there will be a lot of talent there and good competition.”
Through all of the tryouts, many players may forget how lucky they are to walk on and have an equal opportunity to play for a top program.
Division III is one of the only places where there are open tryouts, and head baseball coach Pat Bloom likes it that way.
“I think that open tryouts really accentuate the best aspects of Division III athletics – that young men and women are playing for the love of the game and that our landscape provides a fair chance to be evaluated amongst their peers,” said Bloom.
“I have a ton of respect for those young men and women, so we try to provide them with a platform that can advance their personal growth and character, regardless of the outcome,” Bloom said.