Baseball: UNT continues to look at adding baseball

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The college baseball season will begin later this week, when teams across Texas — and the country — begin their 2013 campaigns.

North Texas has talked about joining the fray for years and could soon see that long-term goal become a reality.

UNT formed a committee that has been looking at the viability of starting a program for the last several months and has seen the group move closer to its goal.

“We brought some people together to help determine the funding process for a facility as well as the program for the first two years,” UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said recently. “We have made a lot of progress. Hopefully, in the near future, we will be able to lay out the situation publically.”

UNT fielded a baseball team from 1984-88 before the program was disbanded.

The school has laid the foundation for its return over the last several years, an era of growth in UNT athletics overall.

The school added a softball program in 2004, which helped address any concerns the school would have in terms of complying with Title IX gender equity legislation following the addition of a baseball program.

UNT opened Apogee Stadium, its $79 million football stadium, before the 2011 season and has also gradually renovated the old Liberty Christian campus it agreed to purchase in 2002 before the private school moved to Argyle.

The school built Lovelace Stadium, the home for its softball program, on the former Liberty property. The venue opened in 2007, which allowed the program to move to an on-campus venue after playing its first few seasons in a city park.

UNT plans to build a new baseball facility on the Liberty campus, which Villarreal has said is a prerequisite for the school reviving the program.

UNT appeared as if it had found a way to add a baseball venue when it entered into an agreement with the Denton Outlaws of the Texas Collegiate League to build and share a facility that was expected to be constructed on the Liberty Christian property by the summer of 2005.

That deal fell through, forcing UNT to revamp its plans.

The fact that UNT is joining Conference USA this summer makes the appeal of adding a baseball program even greater. C-USA was ranked No. 5 among baseball conferences nationally last season and had four teams make the NCAA tournament field.

C-USA has placed at least four teams in the field nine times in the last 11 years.

UNT would have the advantage of being located in a hotbed for high school and junior college talent, if it was to revive its baseball program.

Ryan played in the state title game in 2004 and 2005 and has produced several major college and professional players, including Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Javy Guerra.

UNT would have an advantage when it comes to signing some of the area’s top players as one of the few Division I programs in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

TCU and Dallas Baptist both field highly successful programs, and Big 12 programs recruit the area heavily.

UNT could soon announce that it will join those schools and field a team beginning in the next few years.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is bvito@dentonrc.com .


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