By Griffen Riley, Collegian Contrbutor
On January 28th, the Greensboro College Men’s Baseball team held its first annual “Play 9” dinner. It was a huge success. Many alumni, friends, and family of the GC community came out to support the baseball team on a very special night. The keynote speaker and special guest was Aaron Sanchez, all-star and current ace of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The night started off with an introduction by the Athletic Director, Bryan Galuski. He started the dinner with some words about head baseball coach, Frank Maldonado. “Coach Frank has a vibrant personality. [He] is a person people gravitate to and has been at the pinnacle of winning on and off the field his entire career. Tonight is possible because of Frank’s relentless pursuit to put Greensboro College baseball at the top. He is a visionary and the future days for this program are looking bright.”
Dinner came next. Guests were treated to a chicken and mushroom entrée with an espresso cheesecake for dessert. Then, after dinner was served, Seniors Zach Neumeister and Andrew Ray got up to the podium and spoke to the guests about their experience this year as well. “Words can’t describe how great my experience has been,” said Andrew Ray. Zach Neumeister said, “I found myself at a second home. In my 3 years here, this is the closest group by far, we’re a tight knit family.”
While all of this was going on, a silent auction and a raffle took place containing some very unique items. Among the items in the silent auction were Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, and Kris Bryant baseballs. Some of the most intriguing raffle items were signed Blue Jays baseball hats; there was also plenty of nice team gear that the parents could win.
Next, Aaron Sanchez gave his speech on hard work and success. Aaron Sanchez, who was born July 1, 1992, in Barstow, California, is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball. He was drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2010 Major League draft. Aaron made his MLB debut on July 23, 2014. In 2015, Sanchez was ranked by MLB.com as the 3rd best prospect in the Blue Jays’ organization, and the 44th best prospect in baseball. Last year he had the lowest ERA in the American League and received votes for the Cy Young award, given to the best pitcher in each league every year, according to baseballreference.com.
Attendees asked Aaron about his life, inquiring how he became a successful professional baseball player at the top of the league. “All I wanted was to have college paid for, and instead I ended up on the cover of a video game. Anything is possible and you should always pursue something you believe in. The big leagues has taught me so many things about life. Commitment, hard work, and being on time are so important,” he responded.
Everything was not always so easy for him either. Aaron struggled a lot in the minor leagues. “You have to relish in your failure in order to get most out of it,” he said. Without the failure that he experienced, he would not be the successful pitcher he is today. He is living his lifelong dream, having the potential to become one of the best baseball players ever. “It’s the best job anyone could ask for; I wake up every day wondering if it’s real life. It’s everything you’ve worked your entire life for.”
The first annual dinner was a huge success and we look forward to seeing Aaron Sanchez and the support the GC baseball community received again next year.