By Greg Gulas
Former Major Leaguer Bill Buckner will be the featured speaker for Youngstown State baseball’s eighth annual First Pitch Breakfast on Feb. 10 at The Embassy in Boardman.
Joining Buckner will be former Penguins pitcher Steve Bartolin, who played for the late Dom Rosselli from 1969-72 and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers after his senior season. Bartolin spent two seasons in the minors before turning to a successful business career.
“This year’s event is pretty special in a variety of ways,” second-year YSU head coach Dan Bertolini said. “You have Bill Buckner, a 22-year Major League veteran and borderline Hall of Fame candidate with over 2,700 hits and Steve Bartolin, one of the very best pitchers ever to play for YSU and a player who has never forgotten his roots.
“We will be six days away from our season opener at Belmont College, the food is always great at The Embassy and this is just a great way to get everyone thinking about the upcoming baseball season.”
Buckner played for five teams and collected 2,715 hits (in 2,517 games), batting .289 during his career with the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Angels and Royals.
He’s unfortunately remembered as the Red Sox first baseman whose 10th inning error on Mookie Wilson’s grounder in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series forced a deciding seventh game, which produced the New York Mets’ second World Series title.
Reached Saturday morning at Chicago’s Sheraton Grand Hotel where he was taking part in the Cubs’ 33rd annual “Cubs Fest” convention, he said he was thrilled when asked to be the featured speaker.
“I follow all sports and know about YSU’s rich sports tradition,” Buckner said. “They had a great run in football in the 1990s and are on the sports pages all the time. Anything that I can do to help out their baseball team will be my pleasure.”
He was humbled when informed that Johnny Bench and Ferguson Jenkins were past First-Pitch speakers.
“I’ve done a few programs with Johnny Bench and Ferguson Jenkins was a teammate of mine when I was with the Cubs,” Buckner said.
Bartolin helped the Penguins to an 89-48 record and four straight 20-win seasons (the start of eight in a row), coming at a time when 39 was high water mark for games played in a single campaign.
The Hubbard native earned his business degree in 1975 and is considered one of the top resort executives in the country.
“I really had a great time playing for coach Rosselli and to this day, continue to follow our baseball team,” said Bartolin, the chairman of The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and president of its Broadmoor-Sea Island Company.
“I met Dan through President Jim Tressel a year ago or so and was quite impressed. After he took me on a tour of the facilities, I couldn’t help but think of how the program has evolved from when I played.
“Our spring trip was going to the South Field House to work out when snow was still on the ground. Now, the team takes a spring trip, is in the highly competitive Horizon League and plays some of the top college teams in the nation.”
A 1987 athletics hall of fame inductee, Bartolin said YSU’s business school helped prepare him for life after baseball.
“I was very fortunate to work directly for two vastly successful billionaires in Ed Gaylord and Phil Anschutz,” he said. “They were wealthy, but very, very nice and those two don’t normally correlate in this business.”
The breakfast will give fans the opportunity to meet this year’s Penguins team with live and silent auction items available for bid.
A Frankie Lindor-autographed Cleveland Indians jersey, George Brett autographed bat, four tickets to an Indians game — other than the opener — this season and a variety of Kansas City Royals items, courtesy of former YSU catcher Jeff Davenport, are among many items set to be auctioned off.
YSU baseball gear will also be available while a breakfast ticket will also provide entrance into a pull raffle, which will be for two different grand prizes. First prize is an autographed bat signed by the 2018 YSU baseball team and second prize, four season tickets for this year’s Penguins’ home games.
General admission tickets are available for $25, reserved seats $35 with corporate and family tables available for $550, which includes 10 breakfast-raffle tickets, premium seating for breakfast, sponsor recognition on YSUsports.com and two guests who will join both Buckner, Bartolin and the baseball staff for dinner Friday before the event at Michael Alberini’s in Boardman.
Premium reserved tables that guarantee priority seating the day of the event are available for $350.
Doors open at 8 a.m. with the buffet set to begin at 8:30 a.m.
Further information can be obtained by calling YSU assistant coach Josh Merrigan at 605-366-7627, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.