Walk-ons Face Difficult, Uncertain Path

MATTHEW VANTRYON | Asst. Sports Editor

Thirty-three was an unlucky number for Butler freshman Carl Sanders.

The Butler baseball team has room for 32 players. Sanders was the odd man out.

Sanders was a walk-on for the squad this season. He tried out for the team in the fall and said it gave him a chance to showcase his skills.

“It’s your basic college tryout,” Sanders said. “(The tryout) evaluates players on every skill—hitting, fielding, and running.”

Sanders said he worked hard during the tryout process, doing his best to make the most positive impression possible.

“I had to do my own thing to stand out for the coach,” Sanders said. “I was the first one to the field and the last one to leave. I was trying to finish first in every running drill. I focused on hustling.”

Sanders made the initial cut after fall tryouts. However, he did not make the final cut after winter break.

Coach Steve Farley was helpful in the midst of disappointment, Sanders said.

“He was very nice about explaining why I didn’t make it and explaining what I could’ve done better,” Sanders said.

Sanders, like other walk-ons who are cut from the team, has the option of transferring to another school to try to find a spot on its team. But he said Butler is home, whether or not baseball is in the picture.

‘’Right now, I’m focusing on academics, because that’s something I can focus on,” Sanders said. “(Transferring) is something I’ve thought about a lot. The reason I picked Butler was because of the academics. Baseball always came in second. (Transferring) is a possibility, but as of right now Butler is the place for me.”

Baseball is not the only sport that has had to cut short the dreams of hopeful collegiate athletes-to-be. The golf team had to cut a number of players this year.

Butler golf coach Bill Mattingly said the team’s roster allows for only eight spots. One to two of those spots are left open for walk-ons, while the rest are filled by scholarship athletes.

Mattingly said the tryout process is based strictly on scores in the qualifying round.

Sophomore Corbin Sellers walked on to the team last year and was granted a roster spot. Sellers played in 17 rounds and averaged a score of 80.8. He had three top five finishes over the course of the season.

Sellers tried to walk on again this year and was not granted a roster spot. Sellers said he had nothing positive to say about the program and declined further comment via email.

Sophomore Clark Etheridge also failed to make the golf team this year after walking on last season and posting an average score of 80.6. Etheridge did not respond to requests for comment.

Mattingly said the fact that Sellers and Ethridge made the team last year had no influence on their roster spot availability this year.

“We have a roster limit,” he said. “Guys that have scholarships already have a spot, and we award those scholarships during the year.”

Mattingly said two walk-ons

who tried out for the golf team this year made the team, Mattingly said.

Sophomore Logan McBride made the team after failing to qualify his freshman year. Fifth-year senior Matt Vitale has walked on for the past two years.

McBride played golf in high school and  said he missed the game over the course of his freshman year. He went into last summer determined to make the team this year, and practiced relentlessly, taking only four days off.

McBride admitted that the walk-on process can be frustrating at times.

“It’s a four-day process,” McBride said. “If you show up and play well, you make the team. If you don’t play well, you don’t make the team. It’s frustrating sometimes. It’s whoever shows up and whoever plays well.”

Of the eight golfers on last year’s roster, only four remain. Last year’s team graduated two seniors, while Etheridge and Sellers failed to make the cut.

In addition to adding McBride through walk-on status and retaining Vitale, the team added three freshmen via scholarships.

Junior Logan Holt, who earned a scholarship for his freshman year, said he sees walk-ons contribute immediately.

“(Junior) Andrew Eiler joined the team as a walk-on and made an impact right away,” Holt said. “We’ve been stride-for-stride since then. Logan McBride made an impact right away. Coming so close (last year) really motivated him and showed him he had a chance. He really helped us this fall and went right into his role with a lot of confidence.”