Spartan Baseball Gets 2023 Season Started With 17th Annual First Pitch Dinner Saturday

MSU now opens its 2023 season against in-state rival Michigan on Friday, Feb. 17
Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 10:00 PM EST
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (MSU Athletics) - Michigan State baseball hosted its 17th-annual First Pitch Dinner Saturday afternoon at the Kellogg Center, filling the ballroom of roughly 400 spirited Spartans fans.

This year’s event featured East Lansing native and producer, director and Emmy Award-winning actor Timothy Busfield as the keynote speaker, while honoring Eric Rosekrans as the Alumnus of the Year.

“It was a great day as always; the support that the community gives our guys is really special and it’s overwhelming. I think our guys understand the important role that they play in our community,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “It’s just a fun day to acknowledge that and to kick things off as we get ready to start playing.”

The event got going with fans collecting autographs from the players on the 2023 season poster, baseball and other memorabilia, along with bidding and bid on silent auction items. Then, the 2023 Spartan roster was introduced by the master of ceremonies, Jim Cotter, followed by an invocation by former Spartan pitcher Caleb Sleeman, before the meal was served. After the meal, Boss addressed the crowd, introducing his staff, the Spartan parents, and the former Spartan baseball alumni in attendance, before introducing Eric Rosekrans and presenting him with the Alumnus of the Year award. Rosekrans then spoke, thanking his family, teammates, friends and co-workers in attendance.

“I didn’t know what to expect today, but I was just overwhelmed, I don’t know what to say, it was great,” Rosekrans said. “The stories that came up, and everything, it was just really awesome. And now I really have a deep understanding of people we’ve honored in the past and hopefully those that we’ll honor in the future, of what this means, when family and friends are here, and you’re going through this life that has meant something to them and to MSU baseball.”

Rosekrans was honored for his long-time role as part of the foundation in the First Pitch Dinner event, having been involved with not only the event’s inception, but also heavily involved year in and year out.

“Eric’s the backbone of this dinner, since its inception,” Boss said. “All of his hard work is the reason that this event has continued to grow and grow, and the fact that we can have 400-plus people here today is, again, a direct result of all of his hard work. We certainly wouldn’t have this thing if it weren’t for Eric and he donates a lot of time and resources to our program, and he’s a special guy to me and he loves Michigan State.”

Following Rosekrans’ speech, Cotter hosted a Question and Answer session with Busfield, talking about his life in show business, including his work in baseball movies Field of Dreams and Little Big League. Busfield also talked about growing up in East Lansing, and how despite now living in New York, East Lansing is forever his home.

“Every time I’d come back here, I taught here as a full professor a few years ago, anytime I see it on TV, the stadium, the town, I just have so many memories here, this is my home,” Busfield said.

Busfield also talked about how he continues to support Spartan Athletics, no matter where he is, but baseball is is first and biggest love.

“I’m all green and white, for every sport, but here particularly growing up as a kid in East Lansing baseball was like a playground for me,” Busfield said. “My mom taught at the Manly Miles building, and my dad was in the theater department, so I knew where the best ice cream machines were or where to get the best snacks. Coach Litwhiler let me work out in the IM building and baseball facility when I was in high school, so I worked out with the ballplayers, like Rob Ellis, and was around him a lot and he took a liking to me, so just great memories here with MSU baseball.”

Coach Boss was impressed with how Busfield’s speech inspired his team and the fans in attendance, despite not being a professional baseball player.

“Even though he’s in a different profession, he talked about work ethic, he talked about being bold and going out and getting it, as something that if you want it,” Boss said. “He talked about putting on your game face, so to speak, and really the importance of preparation, and those are all things that we talk about on a daily basis as we get ready to play too, so the parallels are really quite remarkable. I think it’s a really good learning experience for our guys.”

Along with reliving and talking about past memories with MSU baseball, Rosekrans and Busfield’s talks had an impact on the 2023 Spartan squad and added fuel to the fire of excitement for the upcoming season.

“Today was just another great event put on by everybody,” senior pitcher Wyatt Rush said. “It was really cool to have Mr. Rosekrans here and Mr. Busfield, they’re a couple of great speakers. We’re just one step closer now and one day closer and we’re just excited to go play for and represent everybody that was here today.”

Busfield has over 700 professional credits as actor, producer and director. He’s been a series regular or recurring character actor in over 20 television series including “Thirtysomething,” “The West Wing,” and “Entourage,” and also was a director on “Sports Night.” Busfield has also appeared in over 40 movies and feature films including “Field of Dreams” and “Little Big League.”

Born in Lansing, Busfield has an honorary PhD from Michigan State. He played nine seasons of semi-pro baseball in Sacramento, California. He posted a record of 30-12 as a starting pitcher. His father, Roger, taught in the drama department at Michigan State, while his mother, Jean, was the director of the Michigan State University Press.

Rosekrans is a 1980 Michigan State graduate and was a left-handed pitcher for the Spartans, lettering from 1978-80 and was a member of the 1979 Big Ten Championship team.

An East Lansing native, Rosekrans is also a former MSU Baseball Bullpen Club President and was the 2022 Henry Bullough MSU Varsity “S” Alumni Award recipient. He is the Senior Vice President for Martin Commercial Properties in East Lansing, with over four decades of experience there, establishing himself as the leading office property specialist and commercial real estate advisor in Mid-Michigan.

MSU now opens its 2023 season against in-state rival Michigan on Friday, Feb. 17 at 4 p.m. MT / 6 p.m. ET at Sloan Park. After an off day Saturday, the Spartans will then play a split doubleheader on Sunday, Feb. 19, first against Fresno State at 1 p.m. MT / 3 p.m. ET before Michigan State wraps up tournament action by playing Arizona on at 6 p.m. MT / 8 p.m. ET, with both of Sunday’s games being played at SRF at Talking Stick.

The Spartans will remain in the Phoenix area to play at Grand Canyon on Monday, Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. MT / 1 p.m. ET, in a game unaffiliated with the tournament. The Spartans’ weekend schedule is subject to change.

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