The Hillsdale College baseball team prays after a game last season. (Photo: Eric Theisen / Courtesy)

Fos­tering rela­tion­ships and com­munity is an intricate part of building a program which sus­tains success. The annual Charger Baseball First-Pitch Dinner is made to do just that.

On Sat­urday, alumni, players, parents, and fans of Charger baseball came together for the fourth annual iter­ation of the event, enjoying Charger bas­ketball, an auction and raffle, dinner, and an after party. 

“It kind of marks the start of our season,” head coach Eric Theisen said. “It gives parents a good weekend to see their guys — their kids — before season starts and they don’t get to spend as much time with them.”

Around 150 people attended this year’s event, and Theisen added that the event has grown in pop­u­larity with alumni each year. He attributed this to the con­tinual strength­ening of rela­tion­ships and com­mu­ni­cation between alumni and the program, as well as the inclusion of alumni speakers as part of the dinner program.

Early in the afternoon, attendees gathered in the President’s Suite to watch the men’s bas­ketball team down the Ohio Dominican Pan­thers.

In the late afternoon, attendees had the oppor­tunity to pur­chase raffle tickets and bid in the silent auction, vying to take home items ranging from Tigers and Wolverines tickets to items signed by the likes of Tom Izzo and Dennis Rodman, among others. Theisen said the raffle items are all donated, while the auction items are bought by the team at cost. This means they earn the team the most revenue during the evening, which helps to offset the cost of the dinner, which they aim to keep affordable for even young alumni.

During dinner, attendees had the pleasure of hearing from Theisen, as well as fea­tured speaker Tim Cain ‘85. A former catcher for the Chargers, Cain was both an Aca­demic All-American and team MVP in 1985.

Theisen said while the event usually raises the program a small amount of funds, the real goal of the evening is to encourage parent and alumni involvement, as well as to cul­tivate rela­tion­ships between the current team and past players.

“Really, the big thing is to get people back and get everybody together,” he said. “And then to mark the beginning of our season. Once that’s over, we’re always two or three weeks from opening day, so it’s like, ‘Alright, First-Pitch Dinner is over, let’s go.’”

The true first pitch of the season will come on Sat­urday, Feb. 18, when the Chargers travel down to Hen­der­son­ville, Ten­nessee, to face the Alderson-Broaddus Bat­tlers in a four-game series.

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Stevan Bennett Jr. is a senior from the pumpkin capital of the world, Morton, Illinois. He is studying economics and journalism, and plans on attending law school after Hillsdale. He has written for the Collegian since 2014 and is the sports editor. His addictions include coffee, the Chicago Cubs, NHL 2015, and miscellaneous adventuring. email: | twitter: @StevanBennett