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Feb. 9, 2016


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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Diamond Club, Ohio State’s booster organization for the baseball program, held its Meet The Team luncheon for the baseball Buckeyes last weekend at the Fawcett Center and judging by the turnout, there is an incredible interest for the 2016 Ohio State baseball season.

It was a day of recognition for both past and present baseball players. Close to 300 supporters came to meet the 2016 Buckeyes, while also continuing the celebration of the 1966 national championship team for its 50th anniversary “Golden Year”. Diamond clubbers, friends of the program, family members, coaches and alumni were all on hand to get the first look at the team. And they looked good, real good.

Around 11:30 a.m., players and family members began to arrive and the Buckeyes looked sharp in suits and ties. Senior second baseman L Grant Davis was the first on scene in the lobby equipped with a video camera to interview his teammates on a wide range of topics from best dressed to who will have the best speech during the luncheon. (That video is coming soon and you won’t want to miss it).

After a social hour that included a silent auction, a delicious lunch was served. A program followed that was led by emcee, Diamond Club President and Ohio State play-by-play announcer Frank Fraas.

“Another season of Buckeye baseball is upon us and another full house to meet the latest addition of the baseball Buckeyes,” Fraas said. “A tribute to head coach Greg Beals and his staff for putting together a group of fine young men to make up this team. Thank you to all who came out and, without a doubt, this is the largest contingent of former players attending Meet The Team.”

Special guests in attendance included Vice Present and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director Gene Smith, the members of the 1966 national title team and their families, 1965 captain and two-sport captain Dr. Arnie Chonko and former Ohio State baseball coach from 1976-87, Dick Finn.

“I first want to welcome back the 1966 team, it’s good to have you guys and all the alums back for this special event,” Smith said. “This is the best baseball staff I’ve ever worked with. They understand what we are all about. Our responsibility is to help your son become a man in this complex society that they will ultimately go out into. Our No. 1 goal is to help them get their degree, secondly, make sure they are a part of a championship baseball program and lastly strengthen the values that you instilled in them growing up.  I want to give my best wishes to our baseball team. You guys are the pinnacle of our program.”

Smith finished by asking all the current players to stand up and recognize their opportunity of being a part of the oldest varsity sport on campus. After a round of applause, the whole room laughed at once when Smith jokingly mentioned his anger that he could not attend the team’s six-night, spring break trip to Las Vegas to take on UNLV March 11-15.

“Thank you guys for having me, Go Bucks!” Smith grinned.

One-by-one, the 2016 Buckeyes introduced themselves starting with Jacob Vander Wal, a freshman outfielder, who said his home town was “Grand Rapids, …the state up north.” The team ended with one of the largest senior classes in program history each on the microphone and some highlights were:

  •  Craig Nennig, consumer finance major: thanked his family back home in Wisconsin and Aaron Rodgers for another exciting season.
  •  Zach Ratcliff, sport industry major, “I play the real hot corner, first base. I’d like to thank my parents and girlfriend for being here. Go Bucks.”
  • John Havird, sport industry major: “All I need is my boys, my family, a ball in my hand and, of course, a Kobe jersey. I’d like to thank my parents but they are not here right now, chilling in sunny AZ. And of course, God Bless Kobe.”
  •  Ryan Leffel, logistics major: “Hi everyone, I’m a fifth-year senior, the old man on the team. I’d like to thank my parents, my aunt, my grandpa and my girlfriend for being here today. Unfortunately my sister couldn’t be here, so sorry Yianni [Pavlopoulos], I know you were looking forward to that.”
  •  Shea Murray, a redshirt junior international business major, shared one of his favorite short stories, “Two little mice fell into a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse struggled and struggled until he turned that cream into butter and walked out. Which mouse are you?”

Yes, Buckeyes have quite the variation of characters this year, which is something that can be put into good use during the long grind of a college baseball season. 

Junior co-captain Jalen Washington, an international business major, was the first of the two captains to speak on stage:

“I want to thank all my family members that are here and being my support system,” Washington said. “Thank you to the Diamond Club and all the parents, your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.  All of the support staff too. You guys play key roles to help us during this journey for a championship. We’ve trained at an elite level this past offseason and we are hungry for a ring. I want to shine some light on Zach [Farmer]. His dad and coach are here today and I just want to let you know that Zach is going to be with us every single day. He’s a brother to us and we are going to play every day for him.”

Followed by senior co-captain Nick Sergakis, a business logistics major:

“I couldn’t have made it to where I am now without the support of my parents and sister and also my second family, the Ratcliffs,” Sergakis said. “The coaching staff, thank you for taking a chance on an undersized kid a couple years ago. Thank you to the 1966 team too. You are the goal and why we chose to be Buckeyes. This team is a family. Everyone wants a championship, but not everyone has what we have. We put in the time and that’s what we are going to protect.”

To highlight the 1966 team’s recognition, All-American and captain Chuck Brinkman spoke to the crowd. For its big finale of the “Golden Year,”, the team has been invited back to Omaha this spring and will be recognized at the 2016 NCAA College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. The champs will also be honored on Alumni Day May 8 at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium. 

“Coach Beals, we are honored to be here,” Brinkman said. “We love this baseball program and it lives with us, believe me. I congratulate all the guys on the team. You are all very talented or else you wouldn’t be here and we wish you the best this year. You will build passion and love with your teammates and school. It stays with you forever.”

When it was Beals’ turn to speak he sincerely thanked everyone in attendance for their support and had personal thanks for the members of his family and coaching staff – assistants Mike Stafford, Chris Holick and Dan DeLucia and director of operations Blair Everhart, volunteer video coordinator Matt Angle and strength coach Dean Hansen. Beals also thanked each member of his talented support staff and the hard work they do year round.

“We mentioned Larry Farmer is with us today, thanks for being here.  We love you and we love Zach.”

Beals then thanked the ’66 team for their attendance and sharing their stories. He said it is a great example for the players in the room to see and what that means to be a Buckeye long term.

And finally his notes on the 2016 Buckeyes:

  • Expect to see some great flow from the squad this year. Beals said he is more “lenient” on hair and facial hair than in previous years. 
  • After individual fall meetings, the common theme, included words like closeness, comradery, brotherhood and chemistry. “That is what I heard the strength of this team was from every single guy.”
  • Beals identified their core values the team has as a program: elite preparation, this “pitch mentality” and brotherhood.

The Buckeyes open their 2016 season Friday, Feb. 19 in Vero Beach, Fla., against Toledo at the Historic Dodgertown Classic. First pitch is 1 p.m. and, one thing is for sure: the Buckeyes will be ready.

“I think the thing we’ve learned over the course of the year is to stay in the moment,” Beals said. “If we take care of each moment and not look too far behind or too far ahead, I truly believe this preparation will allow us to achieve our goals. We have no plans of rising to the occasion. We do have a plan to be prepared for every moment. We will have a great 2016.”