Feb. 5, 2013
QUEENS, N.Y. - Four-time World Series champion and former Yankee Bernie Williams performed with his All-Star Band for the St. John's baseball team and a group of nearly 250 alumni, fans and friends of the program at the Seventh Annual Baseball Bullpen Winter Banquet on Monday night at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan. The event raised nearly $50,000 with all proceeds directly benefitting the defending BIG EAST Tournament and regular season champion Red Storm baseball program.
"Our Seventh Annual Bullpen Winter Banquet was an overwhelming success," said 18th year head coach Ed Blankmeyer. "This kickoff event for our season not only serves as our primary fundraiser, but also provides the opportunity for our players to meet and interact with our fantastic and supportive alumni base."
Williams, a 2009 Latin Grammy Nominee and the first-ever Bullpen Banquet musical guest, joins Roger Clemens, Ron Darling, John Franco, Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine and David Wright on the all-time list of guests at the annual event.
"It's a great pleasure to come out here and speak and give a little bit of wisdom gained from my experience," said Williams, a five-time MLB All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner . "Hopefully they will remember something that will help propel them to the next level."
After performing original songs from his two albums as well as a cover of The Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like An Eagle," Williams sat down for an extended interview with NBC 4's Bruce Beck, who served as emcee of the event. Williams then returned to the stage for an encore performance of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."
"Bernie is a Hall of Famer in my book and he is an extraordinarily talented entertainer," Blankmeyer added. "He graced us with his words of wisdom and musical gifts and we appreciate him being a part of our event."
The night also served to honor Bob Hirschfield, who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. A three-year letterwinner at St. John's from 1968-70, Hirschfield and the Redmen advanced to the 1968 College World Series and amassed a three-year record of 72-33. After a stint as NYIT pitching coach, Hirschfield was promoted to head coach in 1982 and led the Bears to a 668-715-15 mark in 29 seasons at the helm before retiring as the winningest coach in program history in the fall of 2011.
Hirschfield has also devoted more than 30 years to fostering athletic development through instructional schools. His summer baseball camp program developed into the New York Baseball Academy, which now has three satellite locations and offers both summer baseball camps and winter pitching instruction. Hirschfield currently serves his alma mater as a color analyst for all Red Storm baseball home broadcasts.
"I think the greatest honor any athlete can receive is to be honored by his alma mater," remarked Hirschfield. "It was nice to see so many of my NYIT guys here tonight to support not only me, but the St. John's baseball program."
As part of the evening's festivities, the Peter P. Smith Most Valuable Player Award for the 2012 season was presented to Matt Wessinger. A fifth round selection in the 2012 MLB Draft, Wessinger garnered third team All-America honors from both Baseball America and the NCBWA. The shortstop, who finished his career as the program's all-time Hit King, batted a team-best .348 and had a team-leading 34 stolen bases, the most by a Red Storm player since 1988.
Sean Hagan, meanwhile, was presented with the Howie Gershberg Award as the team's Most Outstanding Pitcher. A second team ABCA All-Northeast Region selection, Hagan was also a first team All-BIG EAST honoree after going 8-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 16 starts. The lefty tossed a school-record 108.2 innings and became the first Red Storm pitcher to toss two complete games in a single season since 2005.
St. John's, which returns 16 letterwinners, opens the 2013 season at the Snowbird Baseball Classic in Sarasota, Fla., on Feb. 15 against Florida Gulf Coast.