Behind the Badge: Indianapolis firefighter, alumni work to restore closed college

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RENSSELAER, Ind. – Two years ago, Saint Joseph’s College suspended operations. The college had experienced long-term financial issues and could no longer sustain programs.

But in the time since the school closed its doors, many of its outdoor athletic facilities, including the baseball field, have become overrun with weeds and overgrowth. Earlier this year, Tom Gandolph and Jason Taulman decided to do something about it.

“To see it not look right was painful,” Taulman said.

Gandolph, an Indianapolis firefighter, and Taulman, a baseball instructor were both members of the Saint Joseph’s baseball team, so they set out on a mission to restore the baseball field to its former glory.

“I can actually give you a visible difference on what we’ve done. And that right there is going to spark the next movement, and a lot more positivity than what we’ve been seeing for the past two years,” Gandolph said.

In a few weeks’ time, the pair was able to make significant improvements to the field’s condition. By using social media to document their progress, Gandolph was able to generate a lot of support from other alumni.

“And they come back, and they say yeah it’s looking really good, you guys are doing a good job up there. And I can see the negativity slipping away a little bit. And that’s been my plan day one,” Gandolph said.

The pair says so far countless alumni have offered support by donating money and landscaping equipment, or offered to help in their work. The two say while their initial goal was just restoring the baseball field, they’re now hoping to revitalize the entire campus.

“St. Joe gave me everything. I am who I am because of St. Joe. So, this is just a little bit to give back,” Taulman said.

Ultimately, Gandolph and Taulman acknowledge that they have a lot of work ahead of them, but say what they’re doing isn’t just about the physical results, rather about breathing new life into the pride that once defined those who went to St. Joe.

“It’s a great feeling because we’re doing something great!” Gandolph said.

Gandolph and Taulman say there are plans to use the revitalized baseball field to host tournaments that can help raise money for the college.

After the baseball field is restored, the pair says their next project is the softball field.

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