Park University Gilbert’s athletics programs take pride in offering an opportunity for East Valley athletes to continue playing the sports they love at the college level.
As the inaugural season for all 11 of its teams approaches, the baseball program is asking for the public’s help to raise funds for the team’s expenses.
“If you’re going to come to Park University, you’re going to play a lot of baseball,” Park baseball coach Kelly Stinnett said. “That’s where the fundraising comes in. I like to play a lot of games and first-year budgets are always pretty thin.”
Park will field two baseball teams this upcoming season. The varsity team will travel out of state to play other universities. The junior varsity program will primarily stick to in-state competition at the junior college level.
Stinnett has five trips planned for the varsity team to California, but charter busses and food expenses don’t come cheap for several 18-to-24-year-old men.
Along with the GoFundMe, each player will be responsible for raising their own funds. From email campaigns to possibly working concessions at Arizona State athletics events, the program is trying to raise money by any means necessary.
“We are planning for this to be just a one-year thing,” Stinnett said. “Going forward, we hope to be a self-funding program.”
Building a new college program isn’t uncharted territory for Stinnett.
He previously coached at Benedictine University in Mesa, where he posted a 76-35 record in two seasons with the Redhawks. He was named the California Pacific Conference Baseball Coach of the Year in 2017.
Before he began coaching at BenU, Stinnett played 14 years in the MLB for various teams. He began coaching in 2010 when he was hired as the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Class-A Rookie Ball team, where he remained for two seasons. He was then hired as the manager of the Montezuma Federals, a Prescott-based minor league team in the Freedom Pro Baseball League.
He then went on to manage the Watertown Bucks of the East Coast Baseball League, which no longer exists. He resigned after one season.
With four kids, two of which in college, Stinnett saw a unique opportunity when presented with the job offer to build the Park University program.
“This last year, all I really had to do was recruit,” Stinnett said. “That gave me the chance to take things slow and kind of be a dad.”
The GoFundMe for the program was started by assistant coach Scott Resnick and his wife, Suzanne.
According to the GoFundMe page, all donations will be used to acquire new equipment and uniforms for the baseball program. It will also provide assistance with travel costs and other expenses throughout the season. The program is asking for $10,000. So far, over $2,700 has been raised, which includes a $500 donation from the Resnicks.
Aside from the five planned trips to California, Stinnett is still planning out Park’s schedule. They aren’t currently in a conference in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), but they will be in 2021.
Without a designated conference they are free to schedule any opponent, including Park University’s main campus team in Parkville, Missouri.
“It’s in the works,” Stinnett said. “All of our other teams are going there. I know the campus president wants us to go out there, but it all comes down to funds.”
Park University opened its Gilbert campus last fall. Located on Gilbert Road in between Elliot and Guadalupe roads, the campus sits in the well-known Heritage District just steps away from downtown Gilbert’s main strip of restaurants and shops.
The university is an expansion of its main campus in Parkville, which first opened its doors in 1875.
Park joins Benedictine University in Mesa, Arizona Christian University in Phoenix, Ottawa University in Surprise and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott as the fifth NAIA school in Arizona. Embry-Riddle is currently the only school without a baseball program, however it plans to field one in the next two years.
All of Park’s athletics programs will utilize local golf courses, parks and schools as their home facilities.
Park’s baseball program has already signed players from around the state and one from Texas before its inaugural season. The Buccaneers hope to sign several more, including some from East Valley high schools, before the season begins in the spring.
“We are here to win. We want to build a winning program,” Stinnett said. “I feel like I am going to put a good product on the field to be competitive.”
To make a donation to Park University Gilbert’s baseball program for its inaugural season, visit www.gofundme.com/f/park-university-at-gilbert-baseball-program.