LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Friday marked opening day for many college baseball teams across the country.
The 2023 season holds a special meaning for Philander Smith College as this year marks its first with a baseball program in 45 years.
The Panthers are in the NAIA's Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC), and head coach Noah Suarez is excited about the possibilities.
"I've had guys that played on the team in the '60s come up to me and just tell me congratulations," Suarez said. "And how proud they are that Philander Smith has a baseball team again."
One of those former players is Dr. Charlie McAdoo. He said he fondly remembers traveling across the country with teammates and passionately playing ball.
However, McAdoo admitted the journey for him and the university was anything but easy.
"It was back in the '60s [and] it was also part of the transition," McAdoo said. "A lot of HBCUs did not have all the resources."
Philander Smith College officials told us that the college was forced to make budget cuts years ago, which led to the baseball program's demise.
Decades later, the HBCU decided it was time for the game to resume, but the university needed to find a head coach.
"We weren't even supposed to have a team this year," Suarez said.
According to Suarez, the original plan was to re-establish the program in 2024, but the GCAC told him he couldn't wait.
Suarez immediately got to work and signed 21 baseball players in 14 days.
"I got guys from all over the world," Suarez said. "I have guys from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Pakistan and Utah."
The newly-formed team spent Saturday morning getting ready for its fourth game of the season.
The program's rich history is why junior Mitchell Brown joined the team. He's an aspiring baseball player and wants to play in the major leagues.
"It's just like a breath of fresh new air," Brown said. "Getting back into baseball and kind of being the setting stone for years to come."
McAdoo is thrilled to see the Philander Smith Panthers return to the baseball diamond.
"We're back where we need to be," McAdoo said.