The Michigan State baseball team hosted its annual First Pitch Dinner Sunday afternoon, ringing in the unofficial start of the 2023 season.
Members of the players’ families, alumni and other members of the MSU community were among the roughly 400 people in attendance. Attendees were able to meet with the players for autographs and partake in a silent auction for MSU baseball memorabilia before the program officially began.
The event serves as a way for the players and coaches to interact with their fans and thank them for their support.
“Selfishly, it's a chance for me to show our guys off to the community,” MSU Head Baseball Coach Jake Boss Jr. said of the event.” I'm proud of our guys, honored to be associated with them. It's fun for me to watch these guys interact with the community. It's also, you know, again, overwhelming to see the amount of community support that we get."
Junior infielders Mitch Jebb and Trent Farquhar especially loved getting to meet the young kids in attendance and sign autographs for them. The two remember what it was like to be that age and look up to the older players.
“I always ask them if they play baseball because when I was little that's what I thought was awesome was when I could communicate with the players,” Jebb said.
Farquhar added his own advice he gives to young fans.
“Just continue to pursue their dreams, like my dream was to come here and play baseball and just don't let anybody tell you that you can't,” Farquhar said.
Following the autograph session, the program honored former MSU left-handed pitcher Eric Rosekrans with the Alumnus of the Year award. Rosekrans played a key role in the creation of the First Pitch Dinner and has been vital to its organization ever since.
Due to his heavy involvement with the team and the event, the program has attempted to honor Rosekrans several times with the award, but he refused to accept.
"Having a hand in starting this whole thing and developing the award and everything, I've fought it off for many years because I thought there were people more deserving,” Rosekrans said.
This year, they finally convinced him.
“He's very humble,” Boss Jr. said. "He's a guy that doesn't really want the spotlight. He's happy to sit back and kind of watch the fruits of his labor, I guess. But at the same time, we've told him you know, this is the year that you're gonna get it and I don't care what you say about it."
The reasoning for Rosekrans’s acceptance might have had something to do with the event’s keynote speaker, his longtime friend and actor Timothy Busfield.
Before Busfield was starring in blockbuster films like “Field of Dreams” and “Revenge of the Nerds," as well as critically acclaimed TV shows such as “the West Wing” and “thirtysomethings," he was Rosekrans’s teammate on the East Lansing High School baseball team.
“I really wanted to wait until I was able to accept this award because I wanted him to be the speaker of the day I got the award just because of our relationship,” Rosekrans said.
Busfield described himself as a “class clown” that would make his teammates, including Rosekrans, laugh on the field by cracking jokes or impersonating their coach. Now, decades later, the two are still friends, often crossing paths due to their love of MSU baseball.
The 2023 baseball season will officially kick-off for the Spartans Feb. 17 against their rivals, the Michigan Wolverines, in Phoenix, Arizona.
"It's exciting, you know, we're chomping at the bit,” Boss Jr. said. “It's hard to believe the snow is on the ground, but at the same time we're two and a half weeks away from our first game, so it's the best time of the year for us.”