MSU Baseball Has Another Successful First Pitch Dinner Sunday
Nearly 500 Michigan State baseball fans in attendance as Brian Storm recognized as Alumnus of the Year and former Tigers pitching great Frank Tanana spoke.
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State baseball hosted its 13th-annual First Pitch Dinner Sunday afternoon at the Kellogg Center, drawing a crowd of nearly 500. Brian Storm was honored as the Alumnus of the Year, while Major League Baseball All-Star Frank Tanana was the keynote speaker.
"It's another great day to see close to 500 people from the community to come out to support the team. It's a great way for us to kick off the 2018 season; I think that everybody's excited," MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. "I'm just very honored and humbled to have such a big crowd here on a snowy day in February."
Storm, a native of Sagniaw, is a 1977 alum of MSU and is the President and CEO of Fields-Inc., Sports Fields Inc., and was the driving force for the Kobs Field heating project, as the Spartan home field became the first baseball stadium in the world with the electronic heating system. Storm's Sports Fields, Inc., is the premier builders of athletic fields and sports complexes in the country. Storm's Sports Fields, Inc., also renovated the MSU soccer stadium, DeMartin Stadium, the Spartan softball field, Secchia Stadium, and McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, after the Red Cedar River flooded last spring.
"Brian's become a very good friend; just a first-class guy that has become a very important part of our program," Boss said. "For us to get a chance to honor Brian, we're very honored to do that, it's certainly well-deserved to receive that award, and I think he was very touched. He loves being a Spartan, he loves coming back to the university that he loves and is happy to give back. I think that was his message to our guys today, too, that you can give back in a number of different ways. It's something that he's very humbled to do and again, a very important part of our program and it will make it possible for us to play what is perhaps the most home games in school history."
Boss presented Storm with an Alumnus of the Year award, an honor that Storm was humbled about and very appreciative.
"Well, it's unbelievable," Storm said. "You get an honor like this from an institution where you went to school. It's a program that is heading in the right direction. Jake's got his kids and they're going to do well this year. I'm humbled, it's not something you ever expect. When you're trying to do good with other people, you don't have the expectation that something good's going to come from it. This was a rare treat for me to be honest with you."
During his speech, Storm talked about how he travels around the country and the world and he proudly wears his Spartan Green and White gear.
"Being a Spartan is really important. Having that opportunity, the foundation I got from going to school here. Most of the things that have happened for me in life are as a result of people I've met and doors that have opened and hard work and those kinds of things. I think it's real important during this time that we don't forget about all of the great things that are going on at this university: their research on autism, all of the things that are going on here. It's unbelievable, right? So let's not forget all of those things. There's a lot of really great people that have graduated from here, there's a ton of things going here and there's a student body here that will go on to do great things in life, great things in America and in the world, and we can't lose sight of that," Storm said
Tanana had a 21-year MLB career, including playing for the Detroit Tigers from 1985-1992. A native of Novi, Michigan, Tanana was drafted by the California Angels in the 1st round, 13th overall, of the 1971 MLB Draft from Detroit Catholic Central High School, and is a proud Michigander and honored to speak at the Spartans' event.
"It was really quite a thrill. I love being around athletes and people who support athletes, and families and things like that," Tanana said "It's kind of fun to get a chance to tell a few stories; it helps me, I get to relive a few of the glory days. In reality, just to be a part of supporting the Michigan State baseball team is great, I love Jake (Boss), I know he and his wife Cheryl really well, so it's great to be able to support them and be a part of a fantastic event!"
Boss returned the praise and admiration.
"Frank has always been a first-class guy," Boss said. "I've gotten to know him over the years. He's become a very good friend and he has a great message to share based on how his career played out and his personal life. I was really thrilled that he was able to come up and I think our players and everybody here really enjoyed the stories that he gave of his career and his life. Again, just very impressed with how he gave his speech and the words of wisdom he gave our guys as we move forward towards the season."
Tanana also played for the California Angels (1973--1980), Boston Red Sox (1981), Texas Rangers (1982--1985), New York Mets (1993) and New York Yankees (1993). Tanana was a three-time All-Star (1976-78). In 1975, he led the MLB in strikeouts (269). In 1977, Tanana led the American League in ERA (2.54) and shutouts (7).
Growing up in Michigan and playing in the Great Lakes State during his time with his hometown Tigers, Tanana has a fondness for baseball in Michigan.
"I know the stoutheartedness that these athletes play in and the conditions they play in and perform in, and having done it myself I can really appreciate their effort and hard work, and the way that they have to get ready to play the game," Tanana said. "I think the fact that the weather isn't ideal, you have to love the sport and love the game to play it in conditions that aren't ideal some of the time, it's a warm-weather sport, but to play it in Michigan, you have to really love the game. Just disregard the conditions and just enjoy it."
In addition to telling stories from his well-decorated playing career, Tanana also gave the current team advice, as well as providing some life lessons and advice to everyone in attendance.
"The biggest thing I took away from it was how he talked and interacted with his teammates, and how he competed, and how he dealt with everything both on and off the field," said sophomore Mitchell Tyranski, who like Tanana, is a left-handed pitcher. "Both speakers today are great guys and have done a lot of tremendous things in their lives, that have impacted them and a lot of others too, so it was an honor to have both of them speak to us today. I learned from them to just be yourself, letting go and doing your own thing, and then making the most out of it."
Along with the two speakers, the 2018 Spartans were introduced to everyone in attendance by Jim Cotter, the master of ceremonies. Coach Boss introduced the nearly 60 former players in attendance, including Jim Sack and Chuck Bodary, who played on the 1954 Big Ten Champion and third-place College World Series Spartan squad.
This season's Spartans open the 2018 ledger on Friday, Feb. 16 at 9:05 p.m. ET in Fresno, Calif., with a four-game series at Fresno State to open a 54-game regular-season slate. MSU and Fresno State will play a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 17 starting at 5:05 p.m. ET, before the opening-weekend series finale on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 1:30 p.m. ET.