Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Misdemeanor charges dropped against NU faculty for activity during pro-Palestinian encampment
City Council approves $2 million grant application to renovate Hilda’s Place, talks Evanston Dog Beach accessibility access
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Lawsuit against Pritzker School of Law alleges its hiring process discriminates against white men
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Perry: A little humility goes a long way

Brew, Hou, Leung, Pandey: On being scared to tweet and the pressure to market yourself as a student journalist

June 4, 2024

Haner: A love letter to the multimedia room

June 4, 2024

Independent review of athletics department released, puts forth key recommendations

Northwestern hosts groundbreaking ceremony at Ryan Field construction site

June 25, 2024

Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins

June 13, 2024


The secret (and short) lives of cicadas on campus

NU Declassified: Prof. Barbara Butts teaches leadership through stage management

Everything Evanston: Behind the boba in downtown Evanston

Baseball: Frieman: Greenspan is the man to right the ship

Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern
Coach Ben Greenspan talks with players during a game against Illinois State Tuesday.

Ten wins, 40 losses. A 12-game losing streak to start the year and just one series win.

Northwestern’s 2023 campaign may have been the worst in program history, as the Wildcats secured their lowest win percentage (20%) since 1943 (9%). The team’s 40 defeats marked the most losses in program history.

To make matters worse, NU’s coach –– first-year skipper Jim Foster, who had previously spent time in charge of Rhode Island and Army –– created an “abusive” culture in the program, the Chicago Tribune reported in July. Foster was placed on indefinite suspension three days following the Tribune’s report. Fifteen players entered the transfer portal.

Rock bottom.

Enter Ben Greenspan, the Michigan associate head coach and recruiting coordinator, who inherited a despondent dugout with expectations on the floor.

But now, a touch past the midpoint of the 2024 season, prospects are looking up.

To start, Greenspan’s group won the non-conference games a Big Ten team should take. Gone are the 20-5 and 24-9 losses to Texas State and the defeats to USC Upstate and UT Arlington. 

The ’Cats won on opening day for the first time in eight years, and dominantly, beating Tulane 9-0.

NU swept Bethune-Cookman in early March and stole a game from Louisville before taking a 2-game series against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. It returned to Rocky and Berenice Miller Park in late March with a 10-11 record –– a far cry from the team’s 1-17 stretch before its first 2023 home game.

Though a 10-game losing streak crippled part of the season, the ’Cats didn’t give up. They kept battling.

“We’re a hard-working bunch, we’re pesky,” graduate student outfielder Griffin Arnone said following April 23’s walk-off win against Illinois State. “A lot of teams will roll over when you have a good guy on the mound like they did, but we stuck to it and we knew we could pull (the win) out if we did our jobs.”

Perhaps the biggest buzzword for this NU team is resilience.

The ’Cats just took a series from last year’s Big Ten Tournament winners, Maryland. Everything went well for NU; the squad pushed runs across the plate, pitched strongly against the Terrapins’ top hitters and took two of three from a good baseball team.

“It’s high character guys,” Greenspan said. “It’s just not giving in, staying present regardless of the score.”

The pitching has improved. The offense is performing consistently. The team is united. The ’Cats look like a proper Big Ten baseball team.

Every time a player hits a double, there is a distinct celebration: The baserunner lunges toward the dugout on the third base side, extending their hand as though they are performing a tomahawk chop, and bellows “TWOOOO!” For triples, as evident against Illinois State Tuesday, they yell “THREEE!”

Or, when a home run clears the fences and a Wildcat begins their celebratory trot, they stomp home plate before walking to the dugout, where a tunnel of purple and white has formed. The batter pantomimes a rectangular door with their fingers before smashing it in.

This will most likely not be NU’s first winning season since 2000, as the ’Cats will have to go 14-2 down the stretch to rise above the .500 mark.

But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s far better than last year’s output. It’s a season that, so far, has yielded optimistic moments.

Consider the fact that junior catcher Bennett Markinson, who has taken a leap this season and is the team’s best hitter, will only be a senior next year. Or that freshman phenom Jackson Freeman is still just a first-year. Freshman pitcher Garrett Shearer, who already touches 92 miles per hour on his fastball, is only at the beginning of his collegiate baseball journey.

Or, most importantly, consider that Greenspan is only in his first season. Rebuilding a program takes time. But the most important quality is evident: The players want to play for him.

At its core, coaching isn’t about wins or losses. It’s about elevating players and preparing them for their futures. The environment of Northwestern baseball is no longer toxic, riddled with bullying and harassment. Now, there’s a lot to look forward to. It almost feels like a hot air balloon –– there’s nowhere to go but up.

And, for that hot air balloon, Ben Greenspan is the perfect pilot.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @HenryFrieman

Related Stories:

Baseball: Arnone’s ‘micro changes’ lead to big game against Illinois State

Baseball: Northwestern beats Illinois State for the second time this season

Baseball: Northwestern snaps 10-game losing skid with series win over Maryland

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