More than 170 friends and alumni of Hillsdale College baseball will visit campus for the Fifth Annual First Pitch Dinner on Sat­urday.

The event, which started as a get together and has evolved to include fundraising, will include Chargers bas­ketball game tickets in the President’s Suite, a dinner, a silent auction, raffles, state­ments from the team, and an address by Cleves Delp ‘86, a Charger baseball and football alumnus.

More than 20 baseball alumni return to campus for this year’s event, a number that has grown expo­nen­tially in the five years of the dinner’s exis­tence.

“We’re just trying to create oppor­tu­nities for them in dif­ferent seasons to come back to campus and get together again,” head coach Eric Thiesen said.

This year, for the first time ever, all of the auction and raffle items are dona­tions. including Charger gear, signed mem­o­ra­bilia, pro­fes­sional and minor league tickets, Hillsdale College expe­ri­ences and more.

Thiesen said dona­tions flowed abun­dantly this year, which helps make for a great evening.

“The more people that can walk out of there with items, the better,” Thiesen said.

Delp, an investment advisor in Ohio and a ‘86 graduate of the Charger football and baseball pro­grams, will give the alumnus address at this year’s dinner.

“Playing Hillsdale College baseball was a priv­ilege, and ath­letics add an important dimension to the learning and devel­opment process,” Delp said in an email. “Hillsdale College blessed me with deep per­sonal rela­tions which I cherish today.”

In addition to Delp, each member of the team will have a brief moment to address the group. Thiesen said seeing the players grow in con­fi­dence with each passing year is one of his favorite parts of the night.

“We do it in increased order and so we have the freshmen go first and they don’t have any example of what to say, so that can get enter­taining,” Thiesen said. “But you can see, as they get older, that they get better at it and that they get more com­fortable.”

For the team, Thiesen said the event serves as a good mark to look forward to before the season starts.

“It always ends up being the three week mark before our opening day,” he said. “You get to that like three-four week mark before the season, and you start itching, and it’s a little too early to itching … so this is some­thing to look forward to this Sat­urday, and then once that’s over, it’s like, ‘OK, two weeks until opening day, we have to go.”

For all of the buzz around the weekend and the looming baseball season, assistant coach Gordie Theisen — often a man of few words — may have summed up the feeling the best with one simple statement.

“I’m excited.”

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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