Past and present collide at The Winthrop Ballpark on Sunday.
Winthrop is hosting an Alumni Game featuring more than 50 former players, followed by an intrasquad scrimmage showcasing this year's team. It's part of an Alumni Weekend the program is hosting, an event that's been planned many times but never as successfully as this one.
"I don't think we've had one for at least 10 years," Winthrop coach Joe Hudak said. "This is far and away the biggest response that we've had."
The Eagles have tried to put on such an event before but didn't get much response. With The Winthrop Ballpark finished with its $3.5 million facelift, Hudak and his assistants began planning a way to get former players back to Rock Hill for a glance at the facility and some fun.
A list of contact numbers of former players was lost when Hudak's office computer crashed, but a flier posted on Winthrop's Web site got the word out to some of the alums. Those called other alums, Hudak spoke to some of his more recent players and the responses rolled in.
They players will report to the Ballpark on Saturday for a tour, golf tournament and cookout before getting back on the field.
The Alumni Game is open to the public and begins with player introductions at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday. The game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
"I was on the inaugural team, back in 1978, so I'm very much involved with Winthrop baseball," said Steve Kirby. "It's in my blood."
Kirby, who's serving as coach of his squad during the game, was glad to see the enthusiastic response and is working on getting more of the older players back to future reunions. While it'll be great to see former players he's watched -- Kirby said he's pretty much met every player who's ever worn the uniform -- it'd be greater still to see more of his old teammates.
"It really baffles me about my era and the earlier years, just don't understand why we don't get more people back," Kirby said. "I know a lot of it is you get out of touch. I just wish there was a way we could get some of the older guys back."
But for the ones who are returning, it should be a grand affair. The alums will split into players who left in odd-numbered years and ones who left in even-numbered years, and the intrasquad game follows.
The Eagles begin the season less than a week later, hosting Evansville at 4 p.m. on Feb. 22.
"This is a chance for the community to see our old players and our new ones," Hudak said. "It'll be a fun time."
WANT TO GO?
• What: Winthrop baseball Alumni Game and intrasquad scrimmage
• When: The Alumni Game player introductions begin at 12:15 p.m. Sunday, game at 12:30 p.m., intrasquad game at 3 p.m.
• Where: The Winthrop Ballpark
• Tickets: Free admission