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Supporting UNI baseball

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by Danielle Wagner

WATERLOO/CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) Back on February 23, University of Northen Iowa's athletic director announced plans to cut the baseball program unless $1.2 million was raised by April 5th. That would be enough to keep the program running for three years.

On top of the that, an endowment fund of nearly $10 million needs to be raised to keep the program going for years to come.

A group of people started supportunibaseball.com to hels save the program. The website is collecting pledges to hopefully keep the bats swinging for UNI ball players.

So far, more than 500 people have pledged more than $240,000 on the website.

Valerie and Brian Ott pledged money so their son can keep playing. Derek Ott went to Waterloo East High and is a pitcher for the Panthers. He also plays for the Waterloo Bucks.

"This will be his second year playing for the Bucks and he probably wouldn't have had that opportunity if it wasn't for UNI baseball," said Brian Ott.

The Panthers and Bucks have a close working relationship, sharing a field and players.

"Every year we get a few players from the UNI roster to play for us because of the local ties and the fact they're darn good baseball players," said Bucks Assistant General Manager Charlie Boeckenheuer.

Boeckenheuer said cutting the Panther program means cutting opportunities for young Iowa ball players. This year, 23 players on the Panther roster are from Iowa.

"We are hoping they can raise the money and save the program and we are 100 percent behind that," said Boeckenheuer.

While fans raise money, the players keeps playing ball.

"We just got back from a Florida on a baseball trip and they're focused and working hard and want to make this season one of their best and hopefully we'll have one next year," said Brian Ott.

"Coah Rick Heller has done a heck a lot for UNI baseball and baseball in the state of Iowa. For him to get put in this position like this, I just think he doesn't deserve," said Boeckenheuer.

The Panthers are on the road this week in Illinois. Monday night the Panthers tied a school record for runs beating Indiana 28 to 17.

The Panthers' first home game at Riverfront Stadium in Waterloo is Tuesday, March 24th.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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