By Nathanael Hawthorne
Youngstown State University baseball hosted its annual First Pitch Breakfast on Saturday, Feb. 8.
Attendees filled Waypoint 4180 Banquet & Conference Center to hear MLB All-Star and two-time World Series champion with the “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds Ken Griffey Sr. and Cleveland Indians TV play-by-play announcer Matt Underwood speak.
Underwood, a Northeast Ohio native, spoke first. He shared how he got into sports broadcasting, some memorable moments and what current students wanting to break into the field can do to give themselves the best opportunity.
“Be patient, especially if you want to be on-air,” Underwood said. “Jobs usually aren’t waiting for you right when you come out of college, so you have to be patient. You have to put the work in to be ready when your opportunity comes. It’s just all about being ready and being prepared because you just never know when opportunity is literally going to come around the corner and hit you in the face.”
On what he thought he could offer to the crowd, Underwood said he wants the younger people to see that if a small-town kid like him can be on television and work for MLB, anyone can. For the older crowd, Underwood hoped to share stories about the game and his experience.
When Griffey Sr. took to the podium, he engaged the room with a question and answer segment.
Many of the questions referenced his former teammates, such as Willie Stargell, Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, but most people wanted to know about his son, Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey Sr. and Griffey Jr. were the first father and son to play together on the same team — the Seattle Mariners. Most notably from their time together, Griffey Sr. blasted a home run and Griffey Jr. followed suit with a home run of his own the very next at-bat.
Griffey Sr. shared some advice for the team as well.
“Just try to be consistent and believe in yourself,” he said. “You can go up and down quick in this game. You could be 0-4 one day and the next day you get three hits.”
In previous years, the event has seen former MLB pitcher Rollie Fingers, catcher Johnny Bench, infielder Carlos Baerga and first baseman Bill Buckner come to Youngstown and speak to supporters of YSU baseball.
The event also had a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle and a public auction. The auctions had an impressive amount of MLB and YSU memorabilia, ranging from autographed baseball bats, pictures and jerseys to YSU baseball merchandise.
The big-ticket items sold during the public auctions were jerseys autographed by Griffey Sr., Bo Jackson and George Brett. Also included were trips to Colorado and Costa Rica. The 50/50 raffle winner gave his $980 winnings back to the program.
The baseball program made $12,500 in auction items and raffle items alone and grossed $33,000 overall.