KSU and Akron take to the diamond to benefit charity

Tyler McIntosh

Sophomore catcher Adam Whiting tags out Duquesne’s Joe Berletic during the game on March 20. The Flashes will play at Akron at 6 p.m. today.

Brian Marks | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

It has been abundantly clear for some time that Kent State and Akron are each other’s biggest rivals.

There are few sweeter moments for either school than beating the other one — Kent State taking the Wagon Wheel from Akron in football, and the Zips ending the Flashes’ basketball season this year come to mind.

However, some things are more important than sports. For that very reason, Kent State and Akron’s baseball teams are partnering up to play each other in the “Diamond Classic for Kids” at 6 p.m. tonight at Canal Park in Akron.

All proceeds from the game will go toward the Akron Children’s Hospital. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults. Each ticket will be general admission.

“I think it goes to show everybody that there is a bigger purpose than going out and playing baseball,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “Our kids are very fortunate to be able to go out and play, and we as a coaching staff are fortunate to coach it.

“After this game, when we are able to give a check back to the Children’s Hospital and see an actual family that we’ve been able to help, I think that will make all the hard work that we have done worthwhile and make us want to work even harder next year.”

Stricklin said that the game was more than a year in the making. Now that every small detail has been taken care of by either Kent State, Akron or the Children’s Hospital, the game can finally be played. No one is more relieved than Stricklin and Akron coach Pat Bangtson.

“We’ve been meeting every Monday for the last six months and just going over the details and trying to get things taken care of,” Stricklin said. “It has been a long process. Coach Bangtson and I are just going to be happy when we can just go out there and play.”

Stricklin brought the idea of the “Diamond Classic” from his days as an assistant coach with Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech and Georgia play in a game similar to this annually at Turner Field in Atlanta. His experience there has shown him that, given time, this game could become a huge success.

“The first year we did it, we had 9,000 people,” Stricklin said. “At Turner Field it didn’t seem like a big crowd, but the second year we had 27,000 people, and we raised a half million dollars for charity.”

“By no means are we going to be able to do that, but I think we can get a crowd of four or five thousand people and put 50 or 60 thousand dollars in the hands of Children’s Hospital.”

Aside from helping out a worthy cause, Kent State and Akron will be able to play a competitive game before heading into their respective weekend series’ with Ohio and Buffalo. The Flashes are currently one game out of first place in the MAC East.

“We get to play a mid-week game that has some adrenaline and hopefully in front of a good crowd,” Stricklin said. “The Akron-Kent State rivalry has really gotten spirited with the football teams and the basketball teams. This is an opportunity for both campuses to get involved with baseball.”

Sophomore Alan Morrison (1-1, 6.12 ERA) will start for the Flashes (17-22, 8-7 MAC). Opposing Morrison will be Zach Yike (1-1, 3.29 ERA). While the game will count towards both teams overall record, it will not be counted as an official MAC game.

Along with Akron mayor Don Plusquellic, current Cleveland Browns players, and Kent State and Akron alumni Josh Cribbs and Charlie Frye will throw out the first pitches.

“To give back and to go see these kids, who through no choice of their own are sick and really don’t have the freedom and options that we have just because of their illnesses, it puts things in perspective,” Stricklin said. “It makes you want to help even more.”

Contact sports reporter Tyler McIntosh at [email protected].