How the baseball program started at Carroll
By John Walsh
The John Carroll baseball program is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. But there’d be no baseball at Carroll without Jerry Schweickert ’60, ’65G, Ph.D. And it all started with a student-athlete who lived next door to Schweicket’s sister in Chicago.
“I wanted to recruit him for football, but because we didn’t have baseball, he didn’t
have an interest in coming to Carroll,” says Schweickert, who was JCU’s head football coach from 1965 to 1976. “He was a very good baseball player, too.”
Schweickert, a former chair of the physical education department, pitched having a baseball team to then athletic director John Keshock (1970-78), who was all for it. He started a club team in 1972, and the following year established the first varsity team, playing in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
In the beginning, Schweickert started only three pitchers, and the team played 12 conference games and six nonconference games (compared to the current 40-game schedule). In its first year, the team lost a doubleheader to Youngstown (Ohio) State University early in the season but swept the team in a doubleheader at the end of the season. The budget the first year was $800, which covered everything, including travel and food.
“I paid $54 for 12 wood bats back then,” he says.
The area on campus where the baseball and softball fields are contained six Little League baseball fields in 1972. The team practiced and played at University School in Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights High School, a public park in Lyndhurst, Gordon Park in Cleveland, and Case Western Reserve University.
“People knew what we were doing, and were glad to help out,” Schweickert says.
Coaches and players helped convert the old Little League fields into a college one by making a decent-size backstop and scratching in the infield. Many of the stones in the ground surfaced in the infield over time as a result of play.
“From 1976 to 1981, we would have the kids who were coming off the field stop and pick up a glove full of stones before they were allowed off,” Schweickert says. “I had the whole team out there digging up stones to prep for sod.”
In 1984, Schweickert sodded the infield with turf he trimmed using a hand axe.
Over time, the program improved and won eight consecutive conference championships. In 1984, the team was invited to the NCAA tournament.
“We played two games and were out, but at least we got there,” says Schweickert, who was also a former athletic director and assistant women’s volleyball coach at JCU.
One highlight from that decade was when the Blue Streaks beat Duke University in 1985 with the best team Schweickert says he coached.
In the late ’80s, a benefactor from Chicago, Tony Culicchia ’64, called Schweickert
into a meeting to let him know he would lead a fundraising campaign to improve the field. To be accepted into the Ohio Athletic Conference at the time, the program needed dugouts and a tarp to cover the field.
“Tony said he would write a check for whatever amount was needed to complete the facility after the fundraising was done if we called the field Schweickert Field,” he says. “Joining the OAC motivated us to build up the field as it is now.”
Another improvement came from Ron Genovese ’76, who donated the field’s sprinkler system, which was the same one his company installed in Milwaukee County Stadium.
“A lot of folks stepped up and helped out,” says Schweickert, who coached the team for 23 years (1972 to 1995).
Now spectators can enjoy a spectacular view of the field from the lounge on the concourse level at Shula Stadium and watch head coach Marc Thibeault ’98 manage the Blue Streaks. Schweickert will throw out the first pitch for the last home game this year on May 4. JCU