Leaving their mark
Douglas brothers exit UW-Stevens Point on personal highs
APPLETON, Wis. -- Siblings who wear the same team’s uniform aren’t a novelty in college athletics, but Dan and Nick Douglas’ presence in the Wisconsin-Stevens Point dugout is a bit special.
As the Pointers’ starting shortstop, younger brother Dan just became the team’s leader in career hits. Older brother Nick is a second baseman/designated hitter whose story is more complicated. They both are seniors, eligibility-wise and aren’t twins. That fact, coupled with their participation in this week’s 2013 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship at Fox Cities Stadium, is the most remarkable part.
"When you meet Nick and Dan and get to know them, you have to think about what great parents they have and what an outstanding job they did in bringing up those two young men, because they’re two of the better people you’ll ever meet,” UW-Stevens Point head coach Pat Bloom said.
Dan was a freshman on the Stevens Point team that participated in the 2010 DIII baseball championship. Although his career ended with Monday’s 8-1 elimination loss to Southern Maine, in the same venue, it did so with far more accomplishment.
During the second day of the five-day tournament — and Saturday’s 4-3 victory against Kean — his bunt single up the middle in the third inning gave him 244 career hits, one more than Jake Frombach’s six-year-old school record.
“Just taking everything game by game, pitch by pitch, you don’t really think about that kind of stuff,” said Dan Douglas, who didn’t hear of the record until a post-game press conference. “Especially being in the situation we were in — close ballgame. We were just trying to get a victory.”
"Dan has certainly left his mark on our program on a way that is measured statistically, but immeasurably in his character and his leadership in the example that he sets for our young players,” Bloom said.
Nick's journey is more convoluted. A displaced disk in his back during his senior year in high school nearly ended his collegiate career before it began at Wisconsin-La Crosse. After one semester, he transferred to Carroll, nearer to his hometown of East Troy, Wis., to rehabilitate among more familiar contacts. Last summer, with his secondary education degree in hand, he again could swing a bat.
“We’d talked about it for a while, all through college, ‘It’d be cool if you played with me,’ ” Dan said. “And it just worked out that he had one year left and he decided to come up here and give it a shot, and he made the team and the rest is kind of history. It’s an awesome experience to have my last year and his last year playing together on the same team.”
But it wasn’t so simple. Between Nick’s initial discussions with Bloom last summer, and his autumn and winter assimilation into the Stevens Point baseball program, a phone call from the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference only days before the Pointers’ season opener on March 10 nearly dashed his hopes.
He was ineligible despite his own research and the athletic department’s earlier eligibility checks. The asterisk was that he’d enrolled in pre-graduate courses at Stevens Point, not a graduate program, after transferring from another institution.
“That was really hard,” Nick said. “You couldn’t really see a light at the end of the tunnel for a long time.”
Since he’d been physically unable to compete, Bloom and athletic director Daron Montgomery felt that Nick’s story should be told. Per Bloom, they pursued NCAA appeals, filing paperwork and seeking physicians’ and physical therapists’ signoffs on Nick’s condition.
“They were both very helpful and put in a lot of time,” Nick said of his head coach and AD. “They could’ve just said, ‘OK, here you go. We’re hitting a lot of those snags.’ And they’ve could’ve just let me go. But they both had my back and put in a lot of time to help me get back on the field.”
The elder Douglas brother’s eligibility was restored days before an April 25 home game against Ripon. Bloom penciled him in as the designated hitter, and Nick delivered his own thank you.
“Probably a moment I’ll remember forever,” Nick said. “It was my first at-bat and [the pitcher] gave me a fastball on the inside corner and I was able to pull it out of the park. It was just a great feeling and a great moment. All my teammates came out and it was something I’ll never forget. And it made all that hardship and all that time I put into it worth it.”
Raised on baseball — the brothers’ father Steve was their high school baseball coach — they cite strong support by their mother Jill and their paternal grandfather Bob Douglas, a retired high school basketball coach.
“I’ll never forget that home run because as a coach, you process so much more than what happens between the lines,” Bloom said. “I was just so happy that Nick could have a moment like that in college athletics because of what he’d been through. It was just a really cool, cool moment.”