BOISE — The Boise State baseball team has coaches in place, players on campus and a spot lined up to practice.
They just don’t have any baseballs.
Among all the chaos of welcoming the first 12 players to campus this fall, finalizing his coaching staff, dealing with plans for a new stadium and the other long list of items on coach Gary Van Tol’s plate, he forgot to do maybe the most important thing for the startup program.
“I still have to order baseballs and get them here by the end of the week,” Van Tol said. “I just realized that there weren’t any baseballs yet.”
Boise State’s revival of a baseball program that was dropped as a varsity sport in 1980 will reach a new milestone today when Van Tol and the Broncos hold their first official team meeting. Twelve players, including five Division I transfers and six Idaho natives, started class on Monday and make up the first group to join the roster.
The Broncos plan to hold their first team practice on Sept. 4.
“I have to take a step back and really believe that this is happening,” Van Tol said. “We’ve got 12 guys on campus and I ran into some of them (Monday). It’s here. It’s happening. And we’re ready to go.”
Boise State finalized the coaching staff Monday with the hiring of former Major Leaguer Travis Buck, who will serve as the bench coach and the director of player development.
NCAA rules allow for 35 players on a baseball roster, but Boise State’s Title IX restrictions will limit Van Tol to 30. He’s got 12 on campus and verbal commitments from 10 more, leaving just eight open spots as he gears towards having the first full roster on campus next fall.
“We’re ahead of schedule,” Van Tol said. “It’s been a long haul and a lot of days on the road, but we’re very excited. Originally we didn’t plan on bringing anybody on campus until next fall, but the chance to bring these guys in and to work with them over the course of this year and lay a foundation so when everybody gets on campus next fall was huge.
“We’re going to try some things with this group and get it all hammered out so this time next year we’re ready to roll and have everything in place and have a group of guys that have been through that transition year because it’s new for all of us.”
Boise State’s first home game in 40 years is slated to be Feb. 28, 2020, against Northern Colorado.
The Broncos will host the Bears in a three-game series Feb. 28, Feb. 29 and March 1. Van Tol had originally planned for a home series the following weekend against Seattle University to be the home opener, but elected to add a series with Northern Colorado since both squads will be familiar with playing in cold weather.
The current plan is for the Broncos to open up on the road Feb. 21-23, 2020, but Van Tol hasn’t finalized the opponent or location. It’s likely to be in a warm weather climate such as Arizona, but could be against a Power Five team not from the area that is still looking to add games.
The Idaho Press previously reported that the Broncos have agreed to home-and-home series with Oregon, Utah, Washington State and Creighton for the first few seasons. BYU is slated to play in Boise for a midweek game on March 10, 2020.
“If everything plans out we’ll have more home games the first season than we will have on the road, which will be pretty cool,” Van Tol said.
Boise State is back loading the schedule in 2020 so they can play more games later in the season in warmer weather. It also allows the Broncos two extra weeks to prepare for the season.
Van Tol said the opening weekend of games on the road is the final piece to the 2020 season, and said he’s only one weekend away from finalizing the 2021 schedule as well.
BLUE FIELD SEEMS LIKELY
What started as somewhat of a joke appears likely to happen: a blue baseball field. Van Tol said there’s a good likelihood the artificial turf will mimic the iconic blue football field inside Albertsons Stadium.
“No final decision but if I was a betting man I’d probably today lean towards it being blue,” Van Tol said of the outfield and infield grass that would normally be green.
“It’s a big decision and we have some people coming up with some realistic renderings and pictures of what it will look like. We want it to be right. We want people to have input and I know it’s a hot topic of discussion even with the recruits we’re talking to.
“The majority of everybody I’m in discussions with say it’s a no-brainer, it’s got to be blue, so we’ll see what happens.”
The infield dirt would likely be more of a burnt orange color than the traditional brown if they go with blue.
VAN TOL MONITORING STADIUM PROGRESS
Boise State is just 18 months from starting play and no ground has been broken on a new stadium. Plans are in place for the stadium to go near Beacon Street across from the new Albertsons, but final plans – and the acquisition of two sets of property in the construction zone – have yet to take place.
“All I’ve asked the administration is to let me know if something changes and they said OK and no one has told me that we’re not going to be able to open up on campus,” Van Tol said. “If we have to open up our new facility a week before the season starts I’m prepared for that to happen. We’ll figure out a way and be creative, just like we will this year with the 12 guys on campus.”
Current designs for the stadium will have close to 2,000 chair-back seats, with a complex for an indoor hitting facility, coaches offices and locker room down the third base line. An enclosed press box and area for donors to escape the weather and enjoy food or drink in a climate-controlled atmosphere is also part of the plan.
Some of those plans could wait until the second year, though, if they run out of time to complete everything by February 2020.
“Mother nature, if she cooperates, I think we’ll be OK right now,” Van Tol said. “I know they are moving forward and things are happening and we’re excited. It’s a big, big project and the last thing I want is to be in a rush. We only get one crack at doing this.
“If we have to do what Oregon did and build the field first and the stadium the second year to finish it out, then so be it. I think it’s important for everybody to remember how big of a project this is and the decisions that are being made will impact so many people for so many years to come. Let’s do it right.”
Van Tol said the Broncos plan to announce the names of the 12 players on campus in the near future, once they’ve all been cleared by compliance. … The Broncos are still looking to hire a director of baseball operations, but the position will likely be a GA position and be unpaid. … Van Tol confirmed that the 11.7 scholarships the Broncos are able to disburse to the players won’t be available until next fall, meaning the 12 players on campus are paying their own way. In baseball, most players receive partial scholarships, and the total must not exceed 11.7 per NCAA rules. … The uniforms released by Boise State shortly after the announcement that the sport was returning will not actually be the uniforms the Broncos will wear. Van Tol said he’s close to finalizing the uniforms, and some will be similar but not exactly the same to the ones announced by Boise State and Nike last spring.