Jan. 26, 2013
By Michael Eldridge | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas - UT Arlington joined World Series champion Hunter Pence at the First Pitch Banquet in honoring past Mavericks and future athletes at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday night .
The San Francisco Giants outfielder, and former UTA standout, was joined by Mavericks coach Darin Thomas, athletics director Jim Baker and university president James Spaniolo in honoring the 2012 Southland Conference champions and previewing of the upcoming season.
"It's family," Baker said. "Everything we are trying to do is to get our ex-players and alumni back. We want to get them around our kids that are playing now and our coaches. It's something we are really excited about. It just helps us with who we are."
Pence gave a speech to the crowd describing his experience and the ride to the World Series. He said that he couldn't put in words what it was like to be crowned a champion.
"It's amazing," Pence said. "It's a collective gratefulness and humbling experience. You are grateful to be a part of a team that accomplishes something like that. I'm overwhelmed with the happiness that the city will be able to remember forever and we as a team will be able to remember."
He said that he hasn't had a chance to speak directly with the current Mavericks about what it is like to be in the Major Leagues, but did say that if he did give them advice that there isn't any one way to achieve success as a professional.
"There are stepping stones you have to have to even make it to the majors," Pence said. "Not only in your mind and studies and discipline of going to school, but also on the field. UTA baseball provided me the opportunity to play at a high level with some great baseball minds."
Thomas, who was a bench coach when Pence was in the program, thanked Pence for the sacrifice that he had to make to be at the event.
"I can't say enough of him," Thomas said. "It's a big deal for our program and I really appreciate him taking the time to be here."
During the banquet, Thomas honored the 2012 team with stories of the success from last season. He also named the recipients of the team's 2012 awards.
The Hitter of the Year Award was given to Preston Beck. Beck finished the season with 14 home runs and 71 RBI. Pitcher of the Year Lance Day had 12 wins. The Mavericks also acknowledged Ryan Walker, who led the SLC in hits with 90. Walker joined Day and Beck on SLC all-conference teams last season.
UTA opens up its 2013 campaign on Feb. 15 against Louisiana Tech at Clay Gould Ballpark. Season tickets are available at utatickets.com.