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ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio baseball team took a break from fall practice last Friday (Sept. 16) to participate in Grandparents and Special Friends Day at Morrison-Gordon Elementary.
Grandparents and Special Friends Day is a day where grandparents are invited to the elementary school to spend time with their grandchildren for the day and take part in activities with the kids. Not every child in Athens has a grandparent or one who is available to come in for the day. This is where the Ohio baseball team comes in. The Bobcats serve as special friends for those students who don't have grandparents. Some of the activities included a play reading, a walk through the land lab, passing a football outside, taking the kids to the book fair, taking part in special friend interviews and just being a friend to a kid in need.
"Every year, we want to try to find something where we can get involved in the community," said fifth-year head coach Rob Smith. "This has been one that we've embraced. It's a Special Friend Day, and there are a lot of kids at the school who just didn't have anybody to spend part of their day with. It's great for our players to get over there and interact with those kids and realize the impact they can have in the community and not just on the field."
Smith, graduate manager Tyler Eaton, junior left-handed pitcher Butch Baird (Big Prairie, Ohio), senior infielder Ty Black (Waynesville, Ohio), senior infielder Connor Callery (Covington, Ky.), junior outfielder/infielder Tony Giannini (Carmel, Ind.), redshirt sophomore infielder/right-handed pitcher Connor McMann (Flower Mound, Texas) and senior catcher Anthony Mrosla (Coon Rapids, Minn.) took part in the morning session.
"It means everything to be able to give back to kids who look up to us," said Black. "Being able to walk into that school and brighten up a kid's day just because of who we are is a very humbling experience. It allows me to look back and appreciate all that Ohio has given me and makes me really proud to be a Bobcat."
Among the participants in the afternoon session were redshirt junior catcher Nick Bredeson (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), freshman left-handed pitcher Derek Carr (Newark, Ohio), senior right-handed pitcher Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.), senior outfielder Spencer Ibarra (Fort Collins, Colo.), redshirt freshman left-handed pitcher Tony Iero (North Canton, Ohio), junior right-handed pitcher Logan Jacik (Omaha, Neb.), redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Nick Kamrada (Grand Ledge, Mich.), sophomore infielder/right-handed pitcher Kenny Ogg (Indianapolis, Ind.), redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Josh Petersen (Deshler, Ohio), freshman catcher Tanner Piechnick (Canonsburg, Pa.), sophomore infielder/catcher Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.), senior right-handed pitcher Jake Rudnicki (Toledo, Ohio), redshirt freshman outfielder Ryan Sargent (Algonquin, Ill.), senior right-handed pitcher Brian Schiemann (Naperville, Ill.) and freshman catcher Devonte Washington (Twinsburg, Ohio).
"To be able to do something like that was awesome," said Bredeson. "We are all a bunch of little kids at heart, so to get an opportunity to hang with the younger Athens community was a blast."
The Bobcats have been hard at work at Bob Wren Stadium this fall prepping for their 2017 season. Ohio's Green & White Scrimmage will be held this weekend (Sept. 24-25) at the Wren, followed by the program's annual Wren Fest next Wednesday (Sept. 28).
Ohio returns 26 players from 2016's 23-win team, including Black, Rudnicki and Rott, who was named to the 2016 Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American Team as a first baseman as selected by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. The Bobcats welcome 11 new faces to their 2017 roster.