Win or lose it’s still fun, say alumni

Fans cheered as players took the field for FAU’s annual alumni baseball game. In traditional fashion, the alumni dressed in a hodgepodge of blue, white, and red t-shirts facing the younger, more prepared FAU baseball team. Shouts of “Hit a bomb!” and “Let’s go baby,” could be heard from the noisy Alumni dugout as they stood with Pepsi cups in hand.

They lost 11 to 1, but who cares about the score anyway? For the nearly 40 alumni that showed up to the yearly game, it’s not about winning or losing but having fun. “It’s like a big reunion,” said John McCormack, who has been FAU’s baseball coach for 14 years, “They (the Alumni) don’t practice before; they just come out and play.”

This year’s game was extra special for some because this is the 25th anniversary of FAU’s baseball program. Billy Ryan, 45, remembers being on the very first team in ’81. “There were only 13 of us so everyone got to play,” he said with a laugh. “We weren’t that good but we had a lot of fun.”

The program has come a long way since then and has seen more than 70 of its players get signed to the big leagues, 45 since 1998. Ryan, who played first base, pitcher and left field for FAU still comes out to support the baseball team during the season and hasn’t missed an alumni game since the tradition began about eight years ago.

According to Jeff Fiorentino, who scored the Alumni’s only run of the game, most of the younger alumni are playing in the minor leagues and a few are in the majors. Fiorentino, who was called the “utility player” because of his versatility, played for FAU for three years and was a 3rd round pick in the draft his junior year. “This is my first year in the Alumni dugout,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a little different atmosphere over here. We are just in it to have fun and they (the players) are more serious. They want to show that they can play with the big guys and beat them. And that is exactly what they did today.”

Although their performance as a whole may have been rather nonchalant, the Alumni weren’t without their shining stars. Tim McNabb and his strong pitching arm turned out a solid performance along with lefty pitcher Carmen Cali. Cali, who played for FAU in 1998 through 2000, recently got called up from the minors to play in the major leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals. “It’s unbelievable being out there in front of 45,000 people,” he said. “It all happened so fast. It’s been a great learning experience for me.” FAU baseball is a family affair for Cali whose brother also played on the FAU team before he went to play for the Cleveland Indians. According to Cali the difference between Pro and College baseball is consistency. “A lot of college guys are very talented and on certain days could play in the majors, but the pros can come out and play well everyday. That’s the main difference.”

Jim Lyttle, FAU’s former hitting and outfield coach, is really proud of all the Alumni and believes that they are proof of the FAU baseball program’s success. He never misses the Alumni/Player game. “It’s nice to come out and see everyone,” he said, “This is a great tradition. We have a lot of fun.”