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.