Annual kickoff to AWC Baseball season features Watson ceremony, expected return of MLB stars Molina, Romo
Yuma, Arizona – January 17, 2013 -- Arizona Western College is proud to announce that the 11th Annual John Stratton AWC Alumni Baseball Game will take place this Saturday afternoon, January 19th at 1PM at Kammann Field, the Matadors’ home baseball field. Over 50 past & present players are expected to take part in the event. The game is a culmination of the 11th Annual Diamond Classics Weekend, which gives past AWC Baseball Alumni a chance to catch up with old classmates.
It will be the 2nd straight year that current AWC Head Baseball Coach Drew Keehn will coach the current squad against the man who handed him the reins of the program upon his retirement after the 2011 season, John Stratton. Keehn showed his appreciation for the man who watched over the program for 27 years (and first organized this event) by renaming this event the John Stratton AWC Alumni Baseball Game last year. Stratton will again don his old uniform to head the Alumni squad Saturday to face Keehn and the current squad, which features six returning sophomores from last year’s squad that reached the Region I Playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The AWC Baseball program’s storied 49-year history began in 1964 under current AWC Assistant Baseball Coach (and former AWC Athletic Director) Jack Watson. Watson’s 11 years of building the program from scratch was highlighted by winning seasons throughout his tenure before he stepped down as both Matadors’ Baseball Coach and Athletic Director in ’75. Stratton took over the baseball program in 1984, and built a winning tradition that has seen several Matador players head to major league organizations. Many former players return each January to the AWC campus to play in the annual event, including: current San Francisco Giants’ relief pitcher (and 2010 & 2012 World Series Champion) Sergio Romo; fellow 2010 World Series participant (and past World Series champion) Bengie Molina, who just retired last year after playing for the Anaheim Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers over the 13 previous seasons; AWC’s first NJCAA All-American (and longtime Detroit Tigers’ Director of Player Personnel & recent Pima County Hall of Fame inductee) Glenn Ezell; former Dodger minor leaguer Gary Pullins, who coached baseball at Brigham Young University for over 20 years and is a recent inductee into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame; current Dixie College president Bob Huddleston; former Orioles’ minor leaguer Brad Drysdale and former Royals’ minor leaguer (as well as Kofa High alum & newest Matador Baseball Assistant Coach) Bryan Casey; and current minor league prospects Michael Jones (Braves) and Stephen Smith (Dodgers).
Many listed above have already confirmed their appearances for this weekend, which begins at the batting cage at 11:30AM Saturday morning with alumni batting practice at Kammann Field. Fans are welcome to come enjoy the festivities at that time to get autographs and listen to the swapping of old stories, and the media is encouraged to get interviews with players-past and present-at that time. Prior to the first pitch, there will also be a ceremony to honor Watson, who has announced that he will retire after spending the last nine years as an assistant under both Stratton and Keehn. After that, the fans will get treated to an action-filled afternoon as the Alumni battle the 2013 AWC Matadors’ baseball team in the 11th Annual John Stratton AWC Alumni Baseball Game at 1PM. Admission to the game is absolutely free. Organizers are asking the media to get the word out about the game so that local alumni who might not have had the chance to get involved in the past can get into the mix for 2013 and beyond. Those looking to get involved can call Drew Keehn at (928) 344-7538 for more information.