#ElonTBT: Baseball becomes Elon’s first intercollegiate sport

In this edition of #ElonTBT, we celebrate baseball, the first intercollegiate sport introduced at Elon, as this year's team prepares to start its 120th season.

In the #ElonTBT series, the Elon University News Bureau, along with Archives & Special Collections, will flash back to the past to take a look at Elon over the years. You will find videos, newspaper clippings, photos and more to celebrate Elon’s past, while looking ahead to the future. Follow along on Today at Elon and the university’s TwitterFacebook and Instagram pages every Thursday to see what we dig up.

Elon Athletics is home to 17 men’s and women’s NCAA Division I sports, but the department’s journey to its current chapter in the Colonial Athletic Association began more than 100 years ago.

Active, healthy lifestyles were a focal point of the Elon experience in the late 1800s. In fact, the administration required all students to participate in regular calisthenics. What began as a way to maintain fitness quickly brought on the need for more competitive athletic opportunities for students.

In 1894 the male students of Elon organized the Athletic Association, an organization of elected committees that oversaw the improvement of athletic grounds and managed athletic activities and intramural sports on campus.

One of the community’s most popular intramural sports at the time was football. Because of the sport’s popularity on campus, the Association tried to garner support for the establishment of an intercollegiate football team at Elon. The organization’s leaders explained there was “much interest” for competitive sports at the school in the Elon College Monthly newspaper. During an Association meeting, students urged “everyone who feels an interest in our college and who wants her to stand on an equal with her sister colleges of the State” to support the initiative.

In the end, the plan failed. The faculty opposed the idea, citing the danger of the sport, the time it would take away from studies, and other concerns. But, of course, that wasn’t the end of the Athletic Association’s push for intercollegiate athletics at Elon.

In February 1900 the Athletic Association petitioned the faculty again. This time, to make baseball the first intercollegiate program at Elon. The faculty approved the request, but with several stipulations. Players had to be enrolled as “bona fide students” two weeks before the first game, have a grade of 70 in all subjects, and not have been “demerited” by faculty. Student-athletes under the age of 21 were also required to have written permission from a parent or guardian to play.

Of the 11 players the Athletic Association submitted to the faculty for consideration, 10 made the final cut. The 11th player was not allowed on the team “for not being attentive to class duty and smoking cigarettes.” Four other players were declared ineligible later in the semester for academic reasons.

The baseball team played two games in its first season – both on the road at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The program’s first-ever intercollegiate game took place on March 23, 1900. It was a momentous occasion for Elon, but the end result failed to live up to expectations as Elon lost to Guilford 32-3. In the second meeting between the two teams, on April 24, the Quakers got the better of Elon again, winning 38-3.

Elon and Guilford became early rivals as their annual Easter Monday showdowns were popular social events prior to the first World War. To accommodate fans from across the area, the railway added an extra car and ran a special route for the trip. Students contributed to the large crowds, as their tickets included round-trip travel, transportation on Greensboro’s electric trolley car and general admission to the games.

In the program’s first seven seasons, Elon baseball played in 19 recorded intercollegiate games, tallying eight wins and 11 losses. Many of those games were against Guilford College and Bingham, Oak Ridge, and Whitsett Academies in neighboring counties. The Athletic Association arranged the team’s schedules and appointed player-coaches – enrolled students who received tuition and board in exchange for coaching the team.

Elon Athletics took another step forward in 1907 when the Athletic Association petitioned the faculty to hire an “athletics coach” and build an official “Baseball Park” on campus. Soon after, President Emmett Moffitt named Virgil Clayton Pritchette, a 1907 graduate, as athletics director and instructor of physical science. That summer Elon bought four acres of land east of campus to build the baseball park and four tennis courts.

As the faculty, athletics director and school administrators began to exercise more control over Elon Athletics, the student-led Athletic Association officially dissolved in 1917. But the group’s work to introduce intercollegiate baseball to Elon also brought along the school’s first intercollegiate tennis, basketball, football and track and field teams.

A photo of the 2020 Elon baseball team in the Dominican Republic over Thanksgiving break.

Today, the Elon baseball team looks to continue building on the program’s history and NCAA success. The team has made six appearances in the NCAA Regionals and in 2019 saw four players selected in the Major League Baseball Draft.

The 2020 baseball team begins its new season Friday as they open a three-game series against Delaware State University. The first pitch of the season is set for 4 p.m. at Walter C. Latham Park.

Do you have any special pieces of Elon history? Share your photos and videos with us via email at news@elon.edu or using the hashtag #ElonTBT on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.