An Editorial of the Book: Strike IX by Paul Lonardo

STRIKE IX tells the plight of the 1999 Providence College Friars baseball team and their beloved sport, which they learned would be eliminated at the end of that upcoming season in order for the school to comply with the federal regulation, Title IX. Written to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of PC’s historic season, this book was the result of speaking with a majority of the players on that team, and tells the personal ordeal that these Providence College athletes went through on the field and off the field when they learned that their sport had been cut. They collectively put aside all their emotions and anger and went out and had the best season in the 80-year history of the school’s baseball program, winning the Big East Championship and getting into the NCAA Division I Tournament with a lot more to prove. This is a sports story, but it is also an inspirational story about team work and achieving something when everyone else writes you off. – by Paul Lonardo

The following editorial was written by Jamie Athas, Providence’s outstanding freshman shortstop in 1999.  After PC’s baseball program was eliminated, Jamie went on to Wake Forest University, where he was drafted in 2001 as a junior and signed with the San Francisco Giants.  He played six years in minors, getting up to AAA.  He left pro ball in 2006 and is currently working as an Assistant Coach at UNC, Greensboro.

“Throughout the reading of Strike IX, I was flooded with thoughts of my year at PC and what an unbelievable time we all had.  When we all learned that the baseball program was being cut after the 1999 season, everyone reacted differently.  Some guys were angry, some sad.  I couldn’t believe it.  Even after it sunk in, I never understood why the school administration did what they did.  I am 1000% for everything Title IX represents and strives to achieve for female athletes, as are all the guys I have ever talked to about the subject.  But even today, whenever I hear about colleges and universities dropping men’s programs to meet Title IX mandates, I am sure that there are others ways for them to achieve gender equity.  Considering the way tuitions continue to increase every year, all the fundraising that institutions do and the salaries that the top administrators earn, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of money.

While what I went through with my teammates during that 1999 season was such a unique situation that only the players will be able to fully grasp, the book Strike IX does a great job of bringing a lot of those emotions out.   As the book accurately depicts, PC’s decision to eliminate baseball really brought us all together that year.  At the same time, during the course of the season, Coach Hickey, along with everything else he did that season, worked hard to shield us from really knowing how the athletic department wanted nothing at all to do with us.  There were some parts in the book that proved this because there were things that I had no idea about until I read it.  At the time, I just thought that was the way things were done, but looking back now I realize we really were up against the College itself.  They needed us to be a bad college baseball team in order for this “problem” to go away quietly.  Well, our school’s complete dismissal of us had the opposite effect, and we really rose up to the challenge. We had so many different personalities on that team, but we all seemed to figure it out, how to stick together, how to become a family and how to win.  We had an unbelievable season, and after finishing the book and looking back on it all now,10 years later, I realized just how good that season really was.  I got to play alongside a bunch of really good guys, some who went on to play pro ball. I loved my time at PC.  It was a great school with great academics as well as a top notch baseball program.  I do not regret my decision to go there and play for Coach Hickey.  My sister even graduated from there after I left.  Because of Coach Hickey and my teammates, if I had the chance, I would do it all again.”

To view an abstract from the book, please follow this link

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