Founded only 18 years after Bridgewater College first opened its doors (as Spring Creek Normal School in 1880), Bridgewater College baseball is the oldest athletic program on campus.
First organized in 1898, the beginnings of the team’s rich history predate the invention of the airplane and the mass production of the automobile. BC baseball teams initially traveled to away games via horse-drawn hay wagon. The first intercollegiate win in school history came in 1904, with baseball defeating Eastern College in Front Royal, 27-11.
At the suggestion of baseball player C.E. “Tiny” May ’24, BC athletics teams adopted the moniker “Eagles” in January 1923—yes, the College’s teams have been the Eagles for 100 years! In May 1925, his brother, Emery E. “Kit” May ’25, would hit the first home run at Riverside Field (now Jopson Field). Later that year, Kit May became Bridgewater’s first professional athlete when he signed with the Philadelphia Athletics (now Oakland Athletics) as a pitcher.
Bennie Huffman ’38 would debut in the major leagues as a catcher for the St. Louis Browns in 1937, though his career was cut short due to injury. Huffman would go on to a 36-year career as a scout for the Chicago White Sox organization and was inducted as a charter member of the Bridgewater College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.
Numerous Bridgewater players would go on to professional contracts and minor league play over the years, while Bridgewater College baseball teams were consistently successful in their conferences. Bridgewater’s conference championships prior to the formation of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) included a Chesapeake Athletic Conference championship in 1937 and a Little Six Mason-Dixon Conference championship in 1942.
Dr. Daniel “Danny” Geiser coached baseball at Bridgewater for 20 years following World War II, from 1946 to 1966. Bridgewater won the Little Eight Mason-Dixon Conference championship in 1960 and 1962, and Geiser was recognized as Virginia Coach of the Year in 1962. Geiser also coached basketball and football during his tenure and began the health and physical education major at Bridgewater.
Following Geiser’s departure, Bridgewater’s head baseball coaches included Buddy Comer ’65, Ray Heatwole ’67 and Dr. Jim Reedy ’61. Heatwole led the team to a Virginia College Athletic Association title in 1973. And in 1975-76, Bridgewater joined the ODAC as a charter member. The baseball team would go on to win the conference championship in just their second season of ODAC play in 1978, when Reedy was named ODAC Coach of the Year. Dr. Tom Kinder would take over the following year, leading Bridgewater to its second ODAC title in 1985 and earning ODAC Coach of the Year honors as well.
Curt Kendall ’81, who initially wanted to play basketball in college but excelled as an all-conference third baseman for the Eagles, would lead Bridgewater baseball for 34 seasons from 1986 to 2019. The winningest NCAA Division III baseball coach in the state of Virginia with a record of 790-528-10, Kendall led his teams to 12 ODAC championships, 10 appearances in the NCAA regional tournament and the record for most wins in a season (36 in 2014). Named ODAC Coach of the Year six times, he was also named Virginia Coach of the Year three times and has been the College’s Athletic Director since 2000.
Kendall still cherishes the memory of meeting legendary alumni such as Bennie Huffman, who would show up at baseball games and informal alumni games into the 1970s. “When I came to Bridgewater, we already had decades of history of players like Huffman and the Mays going on to play professionally, as well as championships in the Chesapeake, Little Six and Little Eight.”
He also noted that Bridgewater baseball has a history of producing alumni who follow two major paths: some excel in business and become leaders and entrepreneurs in their chosen area, while others become teachers and coaches, largely in high school. Many exceptional teachers and coaches have backgrounds in Bridgewater College athletics. Perhaps baseball’s most notable example is Barry Davis ’87, the Head Baseball Coach for Rider University’s NCAA Division I program.
Kendall was succeeded by Ben Spotts ’97, who played on BC’s 1994, 1995 and 1996 ODAC championship teams as a first baseman. Spotts had previously served as an assistant coach with Kendall from 1998 to 2012, prior to a six-year tenure as Head Baseball Coach for Eastern Mennonite University.
Now in his fourth season as Bridgewater’s Head Baseball Coach, Spotts has long had a passion for the history of Bridgewater baseball and consistently reminds current players and alumni alike that they are part of a long and storied tradition. The Eagles’ 14 ODAC championships are by far the most in the conference, while the championship teams from the 1990s on which Spotts played have been named Teams of Distinction and will be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame on March 18. Thirty-three individuals associated with Bridgewater baseball, as players, coaches or both, have been inducted into Bridgewater’s Hall of Fame to date (see list below).
Overcoming adversity, understanding hard work and commitment, working together toward a common goal—these are just a few of the life lessons Spotts hopes his baseball players take with them as they head into careers after graduation.
Spotts said that when he realized the 125th anniversary was approaching, he wanted to use it as an opportunity to bring players from across the decades together, to “celebrate their common bonds and the program as a whole.” The alumni event, scheduled for March 17, will feature a social hour and brief program honoring the program’s legacy.
— By Olivia Shifflett
Bridgewater Baseball Championships
|Chesapeake Athletic Conference||1937|
|Little Six, Mason-Dixon Conference||1942|
|Little Eight, Mason-Dixon Conference||1960, 1962|
|Virginia College Athletic Association||1973|
|Old Dominion Athletic Conference||1978, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2014|
Note: Many inductees over the years have excelled in multiple sports, both as a player and as a coach.
Robert E. “Bob” Baker 1966 (2004 inductee)
Delmer G. Botkin 1964 (2006 inductee)
Harry R. Bowers 1951 (2000 inductee)
Billy O. Burkholder 1954 (1996 inductee)
Vincent J. “Buddy” Comer 1965 (2003 inductee)
Galen G. Craun Sr. 1933 (1999 inductee)
Barry Davis 1987 (2014 inductee)
Charles Jay DeWitt Jr. 1976 (2005 inductee)
Daniel S. “Danny” Geiser (1998 inductee)
Ray L. Heatwole 1967 (2008 inductee)
Andrew L. Hence 1975 (2012 inductee)
Bennie F. Huffman 1938 (1994 inductee)
Warren J. Huffman 1937 (1997 inductee)
Edward F. Jeffries Jr. 1958 (2002 inductee)
Thomas M. “Tom” Kinder (2002 inductee)
Russell V. Long 1929 (1997 inductee)
C.E. “Tiny” May 1924 (1995 inductee)
Emory E. “Kit” May 1925 (1995 inductee)
Donald A. Mitchell 1957 (2009 inductee)
Andrew “Andy” Moore 1994 (2018 inductee)
Robert J. “Robbi” Moose 2000 (2021 inductee)
Wayne L. Myers 1943 (1996 inductee)
Mark F. Puckett 1982 (2007 inductee)
James A. “Jim” Reedy 1961 (1998 inductee)
Herbert E. Ruby Jr. 1941 (2000 inductee)
Raymond L. Shull 1956 (2001 inductee)
O. Paul Siple 1942 (1996 inductee)
Chris W. Sizemore 1975 (2009 inductee)
Guy B. Stull 1967 (2000 inductee)
Marion “Bo” Trumbo 1974 (2014 inductee)
James E. “Jim” Upperman 1968 (1997 inductee)
James E. “Jim” Utterback Jr. 1953 (1998 inductee)
John C. Vance 1953 (1998 inductee)
Owen L. Wright 1958 (1999 inductee)
- Bridgewater College: The First Hundred Years by Francis F. Wayland (1993)
- “Baseball History” by Rob Marchiony, then Bridgewater College Sports Information Director, from the Bridgewater baseball 1995 media guide
- “Coach’s Teachings Go Beyond the Field” by Jessica Luck, Editor, from the spring-summer 2019 Bridgewater magazine.