The Central Michigan baseball team and its supporters filled Hunter’s Ale House on Saturday for an afternoon of introductions, eating, bonding and laughs.
Gathered together with family, friends, alumni and community members, the team kicked off the season with the annual “Meet the Chippewas” event, six days before its first game against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Head coach Steve Jaksa said the event is a great way to bring a lot of people together and recognize the hard work of all the people involved in the program.
“Not everybody knows each other,” Jaksa said. “We’ve got 16 new guys, so it’s an opportunity to meet them. It also tells us the season is here now. There may be snow on the ground, but, ultimately, it’s time to go.”
Jaksa said while Michigan might be fighting winter weather, the team is heading south and focusing on battling its opponent.
An autograph session started the event, followed by lunch and player-by-player introductions from the assistant coaches.
Broken into groups, pitchers, catchers, outfielders and infielders took the stage and one-by-one introduced themselves.
Many told jokes and stories about teammates, eliciting grins and chuckles from coaches and those in the audience.
Next, Jeff Sovern took over at the microphone as the special guest speaker.
Sovern, a three-time letterwinner who played for the Chippewas from 1971-73, told the players to enjoy the memories made and bonds formed with teammates.
“I’ve always had a lot of pride in this baseball program,” Sovern said. “My best friends in life are all part of CMU, and it’s great to come back and be up here.”
Sovern said the “Meet the Chippewas” event is a great way to create team unity and let the parents meet each other.
As the head varsity baseball coach for the past eight years at Battle Creek-Lakeview, Sovern said he hosts a similar event for his team before the first game.
“Anything you can do to bond these kids is going to make them a better team,” Sovern said. “It’s an outstanding program.”
The afternoon ended with a door prize drawing and closing words from Jaksa.
The Chippewas will head south for a four-game series against Louisiana-Lafayette beginning Friday.