The Student News Site of University of Central Missouri


The Student News Site of University of Central Missouri


The Student News Site of University of Central Missouri


Former World Series MVP speaks at UCM First Pitch Banquet

Eckstein shares the importance of ‘Heart’
Current Mules players stand while being recognized at the First Pitch banquet on Mar. 23. During the banquet, they heard from speakers who talked about how to persevere on and off the field and outside of college. (Photo by Ellie Whitesell)

 The University of Central Missouri’s 8th Annual First Pitch Banquet was held at the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center on March 23. The First Pitch Banquet is a source of fundraising for UCM baseball. Highlighting this event was keynote speaker and two-time World Series champion, David Eckstein, as well as Houston Astros Owner and Chairman, Jim Crane, was amongst the crowd. While these two names were well-known among the audience, there were many others who helped make this event a success.

  “It’s a true team effort, and I’m not just saying that because this is an athletic type of event, but it takes a lot of different people [who are] trying to

“For me, the coolest part is seeing [that] their brotherhood and their friendship is still a thing no matter how many years they’ve been graduated, and that’s awesome to me because I’ve met some of my best friends here at the University of Central Missouri.”

— Mules redshirt senior Brennen van Breusegen

generate interest,” Ryan Snyder, Assistant Athletic Director of Development, and emcee of the First Pitch Banquet, said. “This is far from just me [putting on the First Pitch Banquet], our committee [has] worked very hard to do this.”

  This First Pitch Banquet Planning Committee’s work, along with the UCM Alumni Foundation, saw a big audience at the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center to celebrate and raise money for the Mules Baseball program.

  “It’s grown to now be almost 400 people here exclusively to support our baseball program here at UCM,” Jackie Jackson, Associate Vice President for Advancement for the UCM Alumni Foundation, said. “It’s one of the biggest fundraisers for the university, our biggest event fundraiser that we do through the alumni foundation.”

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  While this event helps out the Mules Baseball program financially, there are many other benefits that this event brings to Mules Baseball players.

  “Anytime you have a speaker like that, like David Eckstein, or Reggie Jackson, or Jim Crane, or even Alex Bregman back in the day, was awesome,” Mules redshirt senior Brennen van Breusegen said. “So having a speaker like that and learning and hearing from what they have to say in their experiences around the game of baseball is really awesome.”

  These keynote speakers are selected by the First Pitch Planning Committee to provide encouragement, especially for the Mules Baseball players. This year, Eckstein spoke about H.E.A.R.T, that is, hustle, effort, attitude, resilience and teamwork.

  “When I think back to David, and this is just a fan side of me coming out, but you look at what David did at Florida, he understands the college mentality,” Snyder said. “He had [success] at Florida and then the success that he had at the major league level of being an All-Star and winning two World Series.”

The Alumni Foundation and the Diamond Club hosted the eighth annual First Pitch banquet on Mar. 23. With over 400 attendees including Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros as well as former baseball player David Eckstein, it was the biggest attendance at the banquet since its induction. Photo by Ellie Whitesell

  This year’s First Pitch Banquet served many purposes. Among those were fundraising, recognition of the 5, 10, 25, and 50th-anniversary teams, inducting new members into the Mules Diamond Club, which were, Mike Haynes, Chris Umphres, and Bennett Oliver, and celebrating Mules Baseball as a whole.

  “We want to try [to] celebrate our programs as much as we can. This was something that we started about eight years ago, and it was to kick off the start of the season. We’ve transitioned a little bit now that it’s actually in the middle of the season, just from a logistical purpose,” Snyder said. “But it’s to celebrate our baseball program and also to help from a fundraising perspective because we are trying to have the state-of-the-art program.”

  This celebration of UCM baseball, both past and present, is something that has caught the eye of van Breusegen.

  “I would say first off, for me, it’s seeing the commitment and everybody giving back to the team that made them who they are, [that] made them the person they are, and then seeing teams that had success in the past,” van Breusegen said. “For me, the coolest part is seeing [that] their brotherhood and their friendship is still a thing no matter how many years they’ve been graduated, and that’s awesome to me because I’ve met some of my best friends here at the University of Central Missouri. So seeing the same outcome and the same impact that it had on them is pretty special.”

  In the end, one of the goals of the First Pitch Banquet is to support UCM Baseball, and the reward for the people who work behind the scenes is giving back to the people who are center stage in athletics.

Former Major League Baseball player David Eckstein speaks at the First Pitch banquet on Mar. 23. Eckstein talked about how the struggles he dealt with in college and into the major leagues to current and past players of the Mules baseball team. Photo by Ellie Whitesell

  “There’s a lot of people that we’re trying to support and we want to make sure that it’s the best possible for them because they’re working their tails off to win as many games on the field,” Snyder said. “So when we can put this type of an event together for them, and again, for all of our programs [we can] support what we can. That’s why we do this job.”

  Even with the recent success of the 8th Annual First Pitch Banquet, Snyder and others who work to make this event successful, are looking forward to next year.

  “If [anyone wants] to come out to this event in the future, please feel free to reach out,” Snyder said. “This is not [an] invite-only type of event, this is something for the community to support Mules Baseball, and that’s alumni, that’s fans, that’s students, we’ve got a student price too. So it’s not just limited to parents, alumni, and so on and so forth.”

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About the Contributors
Brad Hadank
Brad Hadank, Reporter
Brad Hadank is a Bolivar high school graduate, and a freshman at the University of Central Missouri. He is a double major studying digital media production and communication studies. As a staff reporter, Hadank has done profile pieces and plans to do more sports coverage. In the future, Hadank plans to pursue a career in sports journalism or sports broadcasting.
Ellie Whitesell, Multimedia Manager
Ellie Whitesell is a senior with a Photography major as well as the Multimedia Manager. She has been involved in journalism since high school. Now getting into the newsroom rules she is thinking about making it her life long career. She has loved taking photos since I child, it has always a hobby of mine until she realized that she could make a career of ourselves. 

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