A large crowd of Youngstown State baseball fans and enthusiasts packed The Embassy Banquet Center in Boardman on Saturday morning for the program's annual First Pitch Breakfast.
The 2018 event was one of the most successful in the events history and the featured speakers former Major Leaguer Bill Buckner and former Penguin and President of the Broadmoor, Steve Bartolin.
Besides an outstanding outpouring of support from corporate sponsors, the program raised a significant amount of money through live auction and silent auction items and YSU baseball gear sales.
Live auction items included a three-night stay at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, an autographed package by George Brett and Goose Gossage, an autographed Bill Buckner jersey and an autographed, game-used Francisco Lindor jersey. Silent auction items included signed baseball bats, jerseys and balls as well as YSU apparel.
Bartolin, a native of Hubbard, spoked about how hard work, his education at YSU and baseball career paid dividends in his professional endeavors.
Following a standout career with the Penguins, he spent four years in professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers before an injury ended his career. He returned to Hubbard and soon after accepted a position at the Greenbrier doing a variety of behind-the-scenes tasks.
He moved from the Greenbrier to the Opryland Hotel in Nashville and became the Director of Convention Services before eventually being named Resident Manager for the facility. At the time, YSU was a member of the Ohio Valley Conference and many teams would stay at the resort when they played Middle Tennessee or were in the Nashville area. He joked that former Athletic Director Joe Malmisur always wanted the best rate possible and it seemed like Bartolin had to pay YSU to stay there.
After a successful stint at Opryland, he returned to the Greenbrier as the General Manager of the facility. From there he accepted a position at the Broadmoor in 1991 and was named the President and CEO of The Broadmoor.
Many of Bartolin's former YSU teammates were in attendance at the banquet. Bartolin said he loves the enthusiasm of YSU Head Coach Dan Bertolini and said that will go a long way toward building a successful program.
Buckner, who now resides in Boise, Idaho, was impressed at the turnout by the Penguins' faithful and said that it was one of the largest sport fundraisers he had ever been a part of. He said that showed a strong commitment from the area in the team and coaching staff.
He spoke about his baseball career and had some great stories for the audience. Buckner was drafted and signed right out of USC by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tommy Lasorda. In 1969, Lasorda was the manager of the Dodgers' minor league team in Ogden, Utah, and Buckner was a key part of that team. Later that season Buckner was promoted to the Major League club and had one at bat, giving him a chance to play in four different decades during his career.
Buckner spent the early portion of his career with the Dodgers before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. Buckner said playing all afternoon home games was a challenge, but he enjoyed the passion that Cubs fans had for their team despite their lack of victories. He said he was traded to the Mets, but as a 10-5 player he could override any trades. So he vetoed that trade much to the chagrin of the Cubs brass. Eventually he was traded to the Boston Red Sox.
He talked about playing in Boston and spoke candidly about the 1986 World Series. He said it was a tough time, but his thought process after the game was let's go get them in game seven. The Red Sox dropped game seven to the Mets before ultimately winning three World Series years later. He went back to Fenway more than 20 years later to throw out a first pitch and was happy to see that most of the Red Sox faithful have moved on.
Buckner signed autographs and posed for photos with fans and Bartolin took time to reminisce with many YSU fans about his past.
The YSU baseball team will begin its 2018 season with a three-game series at Belmont beginning this Friday.