Rocky Mount, N.C. – From 1961 to 2011, North Carolina Wesleyan College has established a nationally-recognized baseball program that has secured a pair of Division III National Championships (’89, ’99) and 12 World Series appearances. This 50-year tradition of excellence was celebrated on Saturday, March 26, with a brief ceremony during the 7th-inning stretch of the Bishops’ 4-1 victory over Greensboro College at Bauer Field.
A private dinner was held on campus later in the evening that featured an “all-star” line-up of speakers. From Dr. Moe Bauer’s son, Paul, leading off the night… to current Division I coaches Mike Fox (UNC) and Billy Godwin (ECU) reminiscing of their Bishop days… to Coach Tony Guzzo being presented with a College World Series ring by his former players… to current skipper Charlie Long running down a list of top-10 Wesleyan moments… it truly was a special evening that encapsulated the rich history of baseball at the College.
“My life started in Rocky Mount when I took the coaching job at North Carolina Wesleyan,” said Fox. “I was married here, had kids here, learned to coach here… I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today if not for this College.”
Those same sentiments were echoed by the other speakers.
“It’s only fitting that I put this on while I speak,” said Godwin as he pulled his 1989 Battling Bishop coaching jacket over his head to the sound of applause. The Rocky Mount native went on to praise Bishops both past and present for the legacy that has been created over the past 50 years.
“My dad is in a better place now,” said Bauer, whose father Moe founded the program in 1960. “But if he could trade one night in heaven to come back for a visit, it would be tonight.”
Other speakers included Ed Schultz, who threw out the first pitch in Wesleyan’s first game, and Greg Clark, the program’s first All-American whose #3 jersey is retired. Former players Charlie Flowers and Mike Eckert also spoke on behalf of their teammates and offered several colorful stories along the way.
No matter the affiliation with the program, however, it was a memorable night for everyone involved. Please take time to view the photo gallery below of what proved to be a great event for a great program at a great college!
With the arrival of Dr. Raymond E. “Moe” Bauer on campus in the fall of 1960, baseball was born at North Carolina Wesleyan College. Despite having only one building on campus, 85 students, and no baseball field or equipment, Coach Bauer had a vision for the sport.
In 1961, the College’s first baseball team practiced at Benvenue High School and played in old Municipal Stadium downtown while Coach Bauer and his brother-in-law were laying out a field on campus. Taking into account the sun and slope of the land, Coach Bauer went to the southwest corner of the campus in the soybean field, used stakes and a tape measure, and began building what is now called “Bauer Field.” Home plate is in the exact same spot today! With help from local contractors and players, the first game was played on campus in 1962.
The College’s first ever baseball game took place in the spring of 1961 against Windham College of Vermont. The starting pitcher was Ed Shultz and the catcher was John Alden. Although the Battling Bishops lost the inaugural game, they bounced back the next day for the College’s first ever victory in not only baseball, but any sport.
Although Lynchburg was the Dixie Conference (now USA South) powerhouse in the early years, there is no doubt who has dominated the Dixie since 1981 as NC Wesleyan has won the conference regular season championship 17 times. Conference Tournament play began in 1994, and the Battling Bishops have claimed seven conference tournament championships, most recently in 2009.
During the College’s 50 years of baseball, the program has basically had only four coaches. Coach Bauer headed the program for 13 seasons beginning in 1961 and ending in 1978. During his tenure, the program was dropped in 1967 and 1968, while faculty members Jeff Watkins, Bill Garlow, and Al Horne each coached for one season over that same 18-year span. In 1979, Tony Guzzo arrived as the head coach and began building the program into a conference, regional, and national contender. Mike Fox joined the Bishops in 1983 and continued to build on the tradition started by Bauer and Guzzo.
In 1998, Coach Fox, after compiling 540 wins in 15 years at NC Wesleyan, left to take over the baseball program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1999, Charlie Long took over the program leading the Battling Bishops to a 42-9 record and their second National Championship.
The Battling Bishops have now won over 1,000 games, having reached that milestone during the 2009 season. The program has received 21 NCAA Tournament berths and appeared in 12 College World Series. Additionally, North Carolina Wesleyan has produced 34 All-Americans and placed 21 players into professional baseball!
The program is established as a national contender annually at the Division III level thanks to the dedication of the many players and coaches who have worn the Blue and Gold over the past 50 years.