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Wednesday Bulldog Update - 5/7/14

Courtesy: hailstate.com  
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Happy Wednesday from Jacksonville.

Mississippi State has plenty of good memories here in Florida, where I’ve been for the last few days as part of the Southeastern Conference meeting of Athletic Directors.

It’s a full house with all 14 schools here and it’s one of the few opportunities we all have to join together and work for the common good. With the SEC Network coming (Don’t forget to ask for it! - www.getsecnetwork.com), scheduling dynamics, a changing NCAA culture, cost of attendance scholarships and plenty of other items on a full and important list of issues in collegiate athletics, we’ve had a lot to discuss.

I regret that it’s kept me away from Road Dawgs 2014, but I trust Coaches Ray, Mullen and Schaefer have made it fun as always. I also hope you’ve been able to meet Jeff Davis who has been doing a stellar job as the new executive director of the Alumni Association. While these meetings have kept me away from most, I will be making it to Philadelphia for the event on Thursday, so I look forward to a good crowd there.

As these events remind us, it’s a wonderful time to be a Bulldog. It looks like the 2013-14 athletic year will see double-digits teams in the postseason for the second year in a row, quite an impressive feat from our 16 programs.

Combine that with facilities upgrades complete and in motion, as well as record numbers from the Bulldog Club, and it truly has been a banner 12 months for MSU.

* * *

MEN’S GOLF IN NCAA TOURNAMENT

A hearty congratulations to the men of our golf team and Coaches Clay Homan and Sean Covich for reaching the NCAAs for the second year in a row, another impressive feat for the program. The Bulldogs will be the only SEC team playing in the Illinois Regional, checking in as the No. 9 seed and competing May 15-17.

The top five teams from each regional will advance to play in the NCAA Championships. Best of luck to the team.

* * *

REGULAR SEASON FINALE AT DUDY NOBLE ON TV

First off, I tip my hat to Coach Cohen and the baseball team for their hot play lately, moving into second place in the SEC West and third in the conference. The Diamond Dawgs have won seven of their last nine conference games, including this past weekend’s sweep of Auburn.

This weekend, we host our final home series of the season, welcoming Tennessee to town for a big SEC match-up. The Saturday and Sunday games are both on television, so we hope to jointly send off our team into the postseason in fine fashion and showcase the best atmosphere in college baseball.

* * *

MEN’S TENNIS, WOMEN’S GOLF IN NCAA TOURNAMENT THIS WEEKEND

All of us in the Maroon and White wish good luck to Coach Nilsson’s men’s tennis team and Coach Brown-Lemm’s women’s golf team as they hit the road for postseason play. Our tennis squad takes on Louisiana-Lafayette in Austin on Friday for the first round of the tournament, while women’s golf will be in Oklahoma for the central regional, play beginning tomorrow and running through Saturday.

Both programs have made great strides in recent years and we wish them luck as they compete this weekend!

* * *

TWO LETTERS COMMENDING OUR BULLDOGS

In this space, I sometimes share letters from those across the country who write to tell me about their experiences with Mississippi State athletics. Over the last week, I received two which meant a great deal to me that I wanted to pass along to Bulldogs everywhere.

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The first actually comes from someone in Baton Rouge who sent a note to President Keenum after interacting with the softball team, while the second comes from our very own campus and a student at MSU regarding some help from our football team.

Dear President,

I’m so honored to send you this email to commend the Women’s Softball Team last weekend in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’m a board member for The Dream Day Foundation located in that city however, my home is in Maryland. The foundation supports St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and on the first Saturday of every May for the past 20 years we hold a private function north of the city for the patients and families.

Our families and I were staying at the Marriott which happened to be the same hotel of the MSU Softball team. I had the pleasure of meeting Coach Vann Stuedeman in the lobby and jokingly mentioned that the team should come to our function tomorrow. She asked what the function was and I explained that we have 3 buses and a large police escort that arrives early in the morning to drive the kids to the function. Vann replied, “We can’t attend the function but I’ll tell you what we can do. If you tell me what time to kids are loading the buses in the morning I can ask the team to form a tunnel and greet them as they board.”

The next morning I left the hotel at 6am to head to the function. When the police and families arrived, I inquired if MSU was there . . .they came alive with excitement and surprise when they answered.

At 7:15, on a game day, Coach Vann had the entire team and support staff lining the lobby and out the door. They cheered, clapped, gave high fives and took pictures with the kids. I’m told the excitement and energy was amazing. The police officers were blown away and the families talked about it all day. Coach sent me a text telling me that she believed they got more out of that experience than the kids and families. I replied with a lengthy text and asked her to share it with the team. I was so moved that on the eve of May 4th, I waited in the lobby for the bus to return from their game with LSU. I wanted to cheer them and thank them for their caring, compassion and support.

When the bus arrived, I walked outside, unknowingly just after Vann read my text to the team. The team members approached me individually, shaking my hand, looking me in the eyes and thanking me for the opportunity they had with the kids. I could barely hold back my tears of appreciation. Even when they entered the hotel and the families were walking around, they stopped to talk and share stories. It was amazing.

These are amazing ladies that recognize the importance of life and the opportunities before them. As I wrote to Coach Vann and the team, “many people have the ability to make a difference and decide not to but today each of you made a difference in the life of a child.” I also wrote, “they may feel what they did wasn’t a big deal but to the families and kids...it was huge.” I know the families will never forget that experience and I hope the team doesn’t either. I can assure you that I will never forget that. I’ve shared this story with our entire Board of Directors and anyone that will listen.

21 remarkable, beautiful, athletic and intelligent players with a staff who have a heart larger than most people rose up early after a late night game and yet a game to play later that day to greet total strangers in a time of their life with so much uncertainty. I can’t express enough the appreciation to every person associated with MSU Softball that day.

They are ambassadors of hope and inspiration. They represent MSU to the highest of standards and I hope you can find a way to recognize their unselfish act of kindness and love.

I’ve already purchased my MSU Softball shirt and as long as Coach Vann is there . . ..I’m an MSU fan! And yes, I’ll be watching the game on ESPNU Wednesday.

This is our website which I invite you to visit: http://www.dreamdayfoundation.org

With my deepest appreciation,

Brad Gentile

Board Member, Dream Day Foundation

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The next letter comes from the President of the Kappa Sigma fraternity on campus.

Dear Mr. Stricklin,

I wanted to write and inform you about how thoroughly impressed I am with some of our student athletes. This past Saturday, the Kappa Sigma fraternity played the Sigma Chi fraternity in a full contact football game in Davis Wade Stadium. We can't thank you and the Athletic Department enough for allowing us to play our game on Scott Field and helping us take our philanthropy event to the next level.

This was the 16th annual Kappa Sigma Charity Classic and thus far we have raised over $880,000 through this event.

This year, through a combination of private donors, chapter fundraising and a donation from Sigma Chi, Kappa Sigma was able to raise over $94,000. This is a feat unmatched in Mississippi State fraternity fundraising history. The charities who benefited from this year’s efforts were Habitat for Humanity, Reclaimed Project and John Clark Packer, a Kappa Sigma alumnus.

Back to the athletes. Evan Sobiesk, the Bulldog kicker and current Kappa Sigma active, helped coordinate several football players to voluntarily coach. (Needn't worry as we contacted Bracky Brett before we arranged the guys to help.)

Evan, Dak Prescott, Gus Walley, Damian Williams, Nick Fitzgerald, Ben Beckwith and Fred Walker all were instrumental in Kappa Sigma's victory in the game. Their desire to give up their already limited time for a charity event expecting nothing in return would be impressive enough, but the guys went beyond that. Dak wrote up a 16 page playbook for the team and several of the guys began regularly attending practice two weeks before the game. Their energy on the sideline on game day galvanized the team and legitimized the event. It could not have been a success without their selfless contribution.

Many times the work that our athletes do off of the field can be under appreciated, but I do not want this instance to go unnoticed. It is truly encouraging to see how genuine and thoughtful the faces of our university's football program can be. This would not happen without the infrastructure provided by Mississippi State's leaders and coaches. The example and vision that has been set by you is being played out before our eyes at events such as this year's Charity Classic.

With that, I wanted to extend my deepest thanks to you and our football players for the contributions made to make the 2014 Charity Classic an overwhelming success. It certainly wouldn't have happened without them. If possible, please pass my gratitude along to the football players and coaches. It is experiences like the last few weeks that make me so proud to be a part of the Bulldog family.

Best,

Walton Chaney

Kappa Sigma, President

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Thank you to both for your letters, and thank you to the Bulldog coaches and athletes who created these special moments.

It’s a warm, busy and fun time of year and I hope you all have the chance to enjoy it. And don’t forget to wear maroon on Fridays!

* * *

OTHER NOTES

- Back to softball, job well done by pitcher Alexis Silkwood and third baseman Caroline Seitz for both being named to the All-SEC Freshman Team this week. Congrats as well to senior Jessica Offutt for being named to the SEC Community Service Team.

- In other pitching awards, junior Ross Mitchell once again won SEC Pitcher of the Week following yet another complete-game performance. He’s had the quite the career so far at MSU, with more to come.

- I want to specifically wish good luck to our football graduates who will be taking new jobs in the NFL with the draft this week. Your hard work has been a blessing to us and will be the foundation for success as your career begins. Congratulations in advance on making it so far.

- Today at 3 p.m., our softball team will play (or did play, depending when you read this) Kentucky in the first round of the SEC Tournament, a big deal given the strength of the conference. Congrats to Coach Stuedeman’s crew for their most recent win on Sunday at LSU in the regular season finale and we look forward to more wins to come.

- Our track and field teams once again deserve praise, this time for placing second overall in the Jace Lacoste Invitational at home over the weekend, including six wins.

It’s a warm, busy and fun time of year and I hope you all have the chance to enjoy it. And don’t forget to wear maroon on Fridays!

* * *

We appreciate what you do for Mississippi State Athletics and want to encourage you to get others involved.  There are three things you can do to help the athletic department at Mississippi State reach its desired goals –

1.  Buy Season Tickets

2.  Financially Support the Bulldog Club

3.  Get Others To Do The Same

Thanks for taking the time to read this Update.   

Hail State!

Scott Stricklin

 


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