Baseball, Ray. There Will Always Be Baseball

The UC Irvine community celebrated the dedication of Anteater Ballpark’s field to Ralph J. Cicerone, former UCI chancellor, last Tuesday.

Cicerone broke ground on what became Anteater Ballpark in 2001, and the next year he threw the ceremonial first pitch in the baseball program’s return to UCI. On Tuesday, before the last home game of the top-ranked baseball team in the nation, he threw another fist pitch.

“I feel honored and proud,” Cicerone said during the field dedication. “The baseball program reflects well on UCI. These guys are real students, they work well together, and now they are ranked as the number one team five weeks in a row. It’s great.”

Cicerone served as founding chair of Earth system science from 1989 to 1994, dean of physical sciences from 1994 to 1998 and then chancellor from 1998 to 2005. He is currently the president of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I was thinking about the quality of life for students on the campus,” Cicerone said. “I felt like we needed a more residential experience, so we built a lot of dorm rooms [and] tried to have a lot of things going on nights and weekends so we can get students to stay around here.”

One of his memorable accomplishments as UCI’s chancellor was bringing National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I baseball back to campus after it was slashed due to budget cuts.

The student referendum vote in 1999 added two women’s sports, as well as bringing back baseball.

“People got the message that we had to help to improve the campus ourselves. It was one of the most important things I did because I think that the quality of life on campus for students is better than it was,” Cicerone said.

But some of his biggest contributions came from the baseball diamond. In 1995, Cicerone was recognized on the citation in the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry given to F. Sherwood Rolland. Later, his research about greenhouse gases and ozone depletion earned him the Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in 1999.

“Ralph was a great leader of this university, but before that he was a great scientist and before that he was a great student-athlete,” said Chancellor Michael Drake about the chancellor emeritus. “He appreciates the excellence and the dedication it takes to be a great scientist and the dedication to be a student-athlete.”

The director of Intercollegiate Athletics at UCI, Mike Izzi, was pleased with the dedication ceremony.

“He laid such a great foundation for the athletic program. It is nice to be able to honor somebody for all the hard work he has done through all the years. For Ralph, as such a big fan of baseball, it is one of those things that you always hope to happen,” Izzi said.

As part of the festivities, UCI athletics passed out free bats to the first two thousand fans. In front of a sold-out crowd, after trailing behind the UCLA team for most of the game, the Anteaters brought home a victory in the 10th inning.

On Sunday, it was also announced that UCI will host its first baseball regional beginning on May 29. Individual tickets for the NCAA baseball playoffs will be on sale on May 27.