Kent State community celebrates a Night of Champions
DetailsCreated on Friday, 29 June 2012 02:37 Hits: 1214
Thousands of anxious fans converse with the tone of a million proud supporters.
All of the sudden, the lights in the Kent State Ballroom, or Omaha East as it was dubbed, dimmed and in one moment, everyone is so quiet you can hear a pin drop.
A projector comes to life and instantly everyone is reliving the moments that brought the community together and Kent State University to the national spotlight.
In a short film made by the university, the moments that are still burned into the minds of everyone who followed the 2012 Golden Flashes baseball team were brought back to life. Electricity filled the air as everyone in the room erupted in cheers to celebrate the accomplishments of the team’s run to the College World Series.
“To be perfectly honest with you, we had no idea what was going on back home,” head coach Scott Stricklin told the crowd.
What was going on was a celebration.
“The whole experience, it was mind blowing, it really was. And people have asked me over and over, ‘can you think of a word that describes it?’ and I really can’t,” Stricklin said.
From Kent State supporters to coaches to even a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, people were on hand to celebrate the 2012 Mid-American Conference Champions, regional champions, super-regional champions and College World Series participants.
More importantly, fans were celebrating local kids who believed in themselves more than what anyone else.
“Another thing that has been really fun for me is addressing people that will ask the question: ‘Okay, you guys have a really good baseball team, what are you doing?’ Stricklin said. “Well this is what I tell them: We’re recruiting hometown kids. We’ve got 33 high school kids, and we’ve got one junior college player who is from 20 minutes down the road in Strongsville."
“We have the highest GPA of all the teams in the College World Series. We’re ranked in the top 30 in the country in [Academic Progress Rate], and we are the only public institute to do that three years in a row. The only one to do it,” Stricklin said.
In the grand scheme of things
A national audience was able to see just what was possible out of the Kent State athletic program.
Not only does that boost the university’s image, but coaches are excited to see how the hopes of a national title can help all of the teams.
“This is outstanding for Kent State as a whole community,” head football coach Darrell Hazell said. “For our guys to go out there and do what they did, it’s amazing. To watch them battle and compete and allegedly not supposed to be there and all those things.”
Hazell said the he has seen a boost in awareness of Kent State athletics which he feel will benefit recruiting in the future.
“It’s great for everybody, and I think our players can see that and say ‘hey this is what we want to accomplish,’” Hazell said. “All of the sudden people know about Kent State and it can’t hurt you at all. It’ll be interesting to see when we start going into houses in the winter time.”
But not just football and baseball will get a wave of recruiting support.
“We have recruits from across the country comment about how well the baseball team’s doing and a reflection of Kent State athletics as a whole,” assistant track and field coach Philip Rickaby said. “I think it’s really going to draw a lot more attention to Kent State University as a whole.”
Will he stay or will he go?
Aside from all of what the national attention and the accomplishments, one big question loomed coming after the team’s impressive run: Will coach Stricklin stay?
He made his answer very clear.
“Another thing I’m really glad to say is that I’m staying here at Kent State,” Stricklin said.
The crowd burst into a roar of cheers and applause.
In all, the night was about 33 local kids who meshed together as a team that people could get behind and ride to the national stage.
Everyone who watched even one game of the Flashes’ impressive run can look back on June 28 as a night that they got to share a part of history with, as Stricklin said, many more to come.