By Josh Schmidt, Maryland Media Relations Student Assistant
Former Maryland baseball stars Gene Hiser and Jim Norris stood just in front of the pitching mound as their former teammates, and current Maryland fans, cheered upon from the stands. Both stars left College Park after being drafted to the Major Leagues, but returning to College Park will forever be special to them both.
“It’s a huge family, everybody’s really close,” Hiser, who played five years with the Chicago Cubs, said. “Our girlfriends, some are now wives, all knew each other at the time. And it also translated over to the field where we were a great team.”
Many of the members of the Terps’ 1970 and 1971 ACC Championship teams congregated in College Park on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the anniversary of their championships. Nearly 40 years later they can still claim Maryland baseball’s most recent conference championships.
The older team stayed to watch the Terps 17-2 win over Rutgers. Head coach Rob Vaughn appreciated their support.
“It’s always a pleasure to welcome back former players,” Vaughn said. “The men apart of the 1970 and 71 ACC Championship teams are class acts and the fact that they would take time out of their schedules to come support us is awesome. Interacting with them on Saturday was great – not to mention the fact that they gave us some mojo as we played our best game of the year. I look forward to continuing to develop relationships with all the men that paved the road for our current team and it was great having them on campus.”
While members of the team, like Hiser and Norris, have scattered across America since graduation, the feeling at the reunion is one as if they had never left.
“This isn’t a friendship that goes away,” Norris, who played four years in the MLB, said. “For any team sport, no matter what it is, you come out closer with those guys than when you began.
The team was close on and off the diamond. The team used to live together in the dorms on campus and have meals together at the dining hall, which only made them closer. When the team was not in class or on the field they were always hanging out like a family.
Now, when the former players get together and celebrate their accomplishment they can’t help but smile at their sustained success. Not only did the team post back-to-back conference championships, but they were also perennially in contention for the national championship, Hiser said.
“We had the best pitching in staff in the nation my sophomore year, and I really do believe that,” Hiser said. “Plus you had two All-Americans in me and Jim [Norris] patrolling the outfield.”
No matter what happens, this team will forever be close because of what they went through during those two seasons, but also throughout their entire college experience.
“It’s like going to war,” Norris said. “You all have one goal in mind and that’s to win the baseball game. So you live and die through that together. That camaraderie doesn’t go away.”