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Breakfast event aids YSU baseball

YOUNGSTOWN — Matt Underwood seemingly has ties all over Northeast Ohio. He was one of two guest speakers, along with Ken Griffey Sr., at the Youngstown State First Pitch Breakfast on Saturday, an annual fundraiser that the YSU baseball program holds before its season kicks off.

Underwood has been a part of the Cleveland Indians broadcasting team for nearly 20, and is the play-by-play voice of the Tribe on SportsTime Ohio.

He said he feels that it’s important to get involved with other baseball communities within Ohio.

“For me it’s huge because, number one, I was so involved in baseball when I was in college, not as a player, but as an announcer, that’s how I really started my career,” he said. “But also too, I had so many friends that I met in college that were from Youngstown, guys from Boardman, guys from Mooney, Warren, from all over this area.

“On top of that my family is all from Steubenville, so it’s kind of in the same general area. I’ve always felt an affinity for Youngstown and this whole region in particular, and to be able to help out the baseball program, it can’t get any better for me.”

YSU has drawn big-time guest speakers to the event over the years including Johnny Bench, Rollie Fingers, and Carlos Baerga among others.

Fans flocked to Waypoint 4180 in Canfield for a breakfast buffet and the opportunity to bid on merchandise, including autographed Major League Baseball jerseys, bats, YSU season tickets, and much more.

Penguins coach Dan Bertolini enjoyed having Griffey Sr. and Underwood speak at the breakfast.

“There’s probably not two better guys that you could have to be here,” he said. “They’re not only accomplished in their professions, but also just great guys. I got a chance to kind of hang out with them yesterday.

“I know where Ken Griffey Jr. got his smoothness about him, because his dad is a very smooth guy, very down to Earth. He’s a Western Pennsylvania guy so he’s got some local ties. Matt Underwood, he’s showtime. When he talks I just, in my head I’m going to watch a Cleveland Indians game.”

The Indians posted a record of 93-69 last season, but failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Underwood likes some of the pieces the Tribe acquired in the offseason.

“I really like the team,” he said. “I think if you look around the diamond, too many people are focused on what we don’t have. What we do have is the best shortstop (Franciso Lindor) in the game, Jose Ramirez has been an MVP candidate a couple of times. (Carlos) Santana has a high on-base percentage and power, Roberto Perez is a gold glove guy behind the plate.

“Cesar Hernandez is the new second basemen, he’s a switch hitter with speed, he can help turn a lot of double plays. Then (Oscar) Mercado was a Rookie of the Year candidate by the end of the season, and nobody knew who he was when we started the year. Franmil (Reyes), he’s the biggest human being I’ve ever seen on a baseball field, he’s going to hit a lot of home runs. Hopefully he can play a lot of outfield and help Tito (Terry Francona) with the DH position.”

Underwood also credits the Indians’ strong rotation and bullpen, but at the end of the day having Francona’s leadership is key.

“I like our team, and we’ve got Tito,” he said. “When it comes down to it, if it’s a close evenly-matched kind of setup, I like our chances because we’ve got Tito.”