Cyclone alumni return to the diamond

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye  A member of the Alumni Team takes a lead off first base.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
A member of the Alumni Team takes a lead off first base.

Saturday’s Elizabethton High School Baseball Varsity vs Alumni game was all about the love of the game, the camaraderie on the field and passing on the Cyclone legacy.

It was apparently also about showing the youngsters that the “old guys” can still play baseball with the best of them; the alumni team won both games.

The EHS junior varsity team took on the alumni in the first game of the day in the Saturday double-header. The alumni came out victorious in that outing, posting 6 runs to the junior varsity’s 2.

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The alumni claimed the second game as well, winning by a margin of 4-2 over the EHS varsity team.

After the last out was called, the current and former Cyclones gathered around the mound where they shared a prayer, and the alumni and coaches offered encouragement and advice to the current players.

This was the first time the alumni/varsity game has been played in a while, said EHS Assistant Baseball Coach Ryan Presnell.

“It has been done before, but had kind of slacked off in recent years,” Presnell said. “The coaching staff wanted to revitalize it and bring it back.”

Not only did the coaching staff bring it back, the alumni responded in overwhelming numbers; 60 signed up to play.

Not only does the game between the alumni provide a fun evening of baseball, Presnell said the game also helps the school’s current team.

“There are a lot of things our players needed and one of those things is to see how happy baseball makes some people and how you should play every game like it’s your last,” Presnell said.

Bringing the alumni from the Cyclone baseball program back onto the field not only helps demonstrate that love of the game, Presnell said, it also shows the current players the legacy of the team and how that legacy stands behind them every time they step on the field.

“We give the alumni a special hat so when we play, the guys can look up in the stands and see those folks there to support them,” Presnell said.

Former players from the 1960s all the way up to a player from the Class of 2014 signed up to take part in the alumni game. “It’s been a really good cross sampling of guys,” Presnell said.

The oldest former player who signed up to play was Dick Ryan from the Class of 1962, but sadly he was not able to be at the game on Saturday.

“He lives in Virginia and got snowed in and wasn’t able to make it,” Presnell said.

For Andy Wetzel, a Class of 1989 alumni for the team, the game gave him a unique chance to play with former classmates as well as his children.

“I’ve actually got two sons playing this year,” Wetzel said. His son, Ryan, is an EHS freshman playing on the Junior Varsity team while his son, Drew, is in his junior year and plays on the varsity team.

“I’m out here doing this for my sons,” Wetzel said. “I was skeptical at first because I hadn’t touched a ball in years.”

While he enjoyed the chance to play with his sons and the camaraderie of his fellow alumni, Wetzel said the game was really about “trying to help Cyclone baseball be the best it can be.”

Supporting the high school’s baseball program was also a driving force behind Richard Tester’s decision to play for the alumni team. “It’s good for the kids,” said Tester, a member of the Class of 1992. “It’s good for them to recognize the people supporting them.”

For some, the memories and the friends are what bring them back.

“I came back for the camaraderie with all the guys,” said Josh Guinn, from the Class of 2007.

Nathan Copeland, from the Class of 1996, also enjoyed the chance to see his fellow baseball alums.

“It’s good to get out here and see old friends and compete,” Copeland said. “It’s been eight years since we had this game. It was a first class event.”