Baseball team hosts annual First Pitch Banquet


Courtesy of Samantha Condon

The Oakland University baseball team’s senior class poses for a picture at the Annual First Pitch banquet on Saturday Feb 4. Back row: Kendall Colvin, Zach Sterry, Connor Fannon, Tyler Palm, Jonah Lakatos, Tyler Pagano. Front row: Aaron Dehn, Tyler Janish, Ben Hart.

For the past 12 years, Oakland’s baseball team has hosted its annual First Pitch Banquet. The banquet provides players the opportunity to spend time with their families and baseball alumni to raise money for the baseball program. On Saturday, Feb. 4, the 2017 First Pitch Banquet was hosted at Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield.

Tickets were available for $100 each and included dinner and a charitable donation of $35. Attendees were also able to participate in a silent auction to help raise money for the baseball program. There were over 85 items at the auction, some of which included team memorabilia, a Buffalo Wild Wings gift basket and signed jerseys of Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. With 185 people attending the banquet, the team raised about $20,000 through ticket sales and the silent auction.

“The banquet is a good opportunity for our coaching staff to give back to our players, our alumni, friends, family,” said co-head coach Jacke Healy. “It gives back to them because we’re able to come together for one night and appreciate the team [and] pay recognition to our seniors.”

Preparations for the banquet began in October 2016. Healy and co-head coach Colin Kaline decided on the venue and organized donations for the silent auction. This is Kaline’s first year as a head coach and his first year with Oakland. Planning the banquet was a new experience for him.

“Being a first-year head coach and organizing a banquet, you kind of run into the problems and things that you work through, but it was wonderful,” Kaline said. “It was definitely a unique experience, but it was a great success, and we’re really happy with how it turned out.”

Mario Impemba, the TV voice of the Detroit Tigers and former radio voice of Oakland’s men’s basketball team, was the featured speaker at the banquet. The 2016-2017 Oakland baseball team was introduced, and the team’s senior class gave speeches.

“Just seeing all the support from all the alumni, family and friends, athletic administration, it really meant a lot to us to see how much support we have behind the program,” said senior shortstop Tyler Janish.

With the season starting this month, the team has high expectations for this year’s roster.

“I think there’s a new energy this year that I haven’t seen out of the program before,” Janish said. “We have a coaching change that seems to bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm about the game, and I think it’s rubbing off on our players.”

Kaline also expressed his excitement about the upcoming season.

“[I’m] really excited,” Kaline said. “I think we have a great group of guys, high-character guys, talented kids on the field. We’re looking for a great year, and we’re feeling really confident.”

Opening game day for the Golden Grizzlies will be against the Lipscomb University Bison at 4 p.m. on Feb. 17 in Nashville, Tennessee.