BOWLING GREEN — Maybe more than any of his Bowling Green State University teammates, Owen Recker might have had a reason to receive the news on May 15 that the Falcons’ baseball program was being shut down with disbelief.
The freshman pitcher from Kalida had just awakened after Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged ligament in his right arm earlier that day when he found out BGSU was dropping baseball.
“I had surgery and I woke up and I checked my phone and there was a message from the coaches saying ‘We have a (video) team meeting at 1:45.’ It was just shocking, it was something I don’t think any of the players or coaches saw coming,” Recker said.
“It was overwhelming. It was gut wrenching when I found out about the program. It seemed like one thing was stacking on top of another. I wanted to say, ‘When is it going to stop? When am I going to get some good news?’ ” he said.
Good news arrived 18 days later when Bowling Green announced it was reinstating the baseball program after former players and alumni pledged $500,000 a year for the next three years to keep the Falcons on the diamond.
The return might have been every bit as shocking as ending the program had been.
Gage Schenk, a sophomore pitcher from Wapakoneta, said he hadn’t expected to play baseball at BGSU again.
“No, not at all. I thought it was done for good,” he said. “My initial reaction (to the return) was excitement. I’m ecstatic to be playing with these guys again next year. I love the dudes I play with.”
Some players entered the transfer portal after the first announcement that baseball would be dropped, but Schenk said that wasn’t in his plans.
“I had a decent amount of schools contact me but I really wasn’t interested in going anywhere else that much. I was just thinking about finishing my degree at BG and hanging up the glove and calling it quits for baseball. But I’m definitely excited that it’s back now,” he said.
“I think there are a few guys that are sticking with the schools they committed to. Not everyone has given a for sure answer but I’m pretty sure a majority of the team is coming back. Some of the guys had already found new schools because they thought our program had been cut.”
Recker hopes to be ready to pitch again sometime next season.
“I think until you can pitch in games it’s nine to 10 months minimum,” he said about the average recovery time from Tommy John surgery. “I’m hoping to be back by the end of March. That’s my goal.”
His arm issues became worrisome during Bowling Green’s spring baseball trip to North Carolina in February.
“I touched 95 (miles an hour) and I was sitting at 91 to 94 all fall and the beginning of the spring before that happened,” Recker said.
“I’d been having arm problems, not major, just like extra soreness or loss of mobility a little here and there. At the end of January and beginning of February I started to have some loss of mobility and some pain. We finally got it checked out after my second start in North Carolina.”
A change in coaches was also part of the announcement of the return of Bowling Green baseball.
Danny Schmitz, the Falcons’ coach for the last 30 years, will move to an advisory role and assistant coach Kyle Hallock is now the head coach.
Bowling Green’s players weren’t the only ones who were shocked at the quick return of the program.
Hallock, a Sandusky Perkins High School graduate who played baseball at Kent State, told the Sandusky Register that after the announcement BGSU was dropping baseball he and his wife quickly sold their house and now have to look for a different house.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.