It may never have occurred to members of the Embry-Riddle baseball team at the tail end of the 20th century that they were establishing lifelong friendships that would affect their lives for decades. But they were.
“We were all so young,” says Luke Martin (’02), a left-handed pitcher and now global logistics manager for Lockheed Martin. “For most of us, it was our first time out of the house. So, we kind of grew up together through all the ups and downs of being 18 or 19 years old, playing collegiate-level athletics, and having to go to classes and keep your grades up.”
Martin and a tight-knit group of his teammates have stayed in touch ever since. Eagle baseball alumni — regardless of when they played on the team — share a similar connection.
That’s why every other year the athletics department invites former players from all eras of the Daytona Beach Campus baseball program back to Sliwa Stadium, to challenge the current players in an alumni baseball game. “It’s about bridging the gap between old and new players,” says Assistant Coach Chuck Stegall. “And, it gives them a chance to see each other.”
Chuck and his brother, Head Coach Randy Stegall, established the biennial tradition in 2010. This past year, about 30 former players from as far back as the 1990s came for the game.
One of those who returned to campus, Phillip Reamy (’10, ’13), an Eagle pitcher and now an air traffic controller in Syracuse, New York, says, “You put so much time and effort into it when you’re playing here, you cannot help but want to stay invested.”
Richard “Richie” Cormier, who played on the team from 2003-2005 and now owns his own insurance company in Sebring, Florida, agrees. “We may have never played together but we have a bond. It’s a brotherhood.”
Martin and a smaller group of alumni have taken the biennial game to another level, getting together every year in a different city to maintain the friendships they began in the late 1990s — an era when the team brought home its first conference championships, won its first regional title and achieved the baseball team’s first No. 1 ranking in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Fast-forward through graduation, bachelor parties, weddings and random get-togethers, and Martin and his former teammates decided to make time together an annual priority. Guys Weekend was born.
The first Guys Weekend took place in 2009. Since that time, the group — about 10 guys — has met in cities all over the country.
“The trips have gone from all-night liver killers to golf and catching up with best friends,” says Mike Magee (’99), a pitcher and the founder of a Maryland aerospace engineering company called MTech.
Martin adds, “We laugh about the evolution of this and what it will look like 15 years from now. Someone will have a walker, and we won’t ever leave the house we rent.”
An old adage says one of the reasons to go to college is to broaden your perspective and your circle of connections, and these former Embry-Riddle baseball players can certainly attest to that.
“My experience at Embry-Riddle shaped who I am today,” says Kevin Hawkins (’01), pitcher and now an engineering director at Qualcomm in San Diego. “I still remember moments in classrooms … just like I remember moments on the field. Maybe most importantly, I have this bond with the guys in this group.”
Magee agrees. “As I get older I realize how few ‘lifetime’ friends I’ll make and most of those friendships were developed at Embry-Riddle. Getting together with best friends and catching up on life, family, business — what could be better?”