Jan. 15, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head baseball coach Jack Dahm likes to use the annual Lead-Off Dinner as a vehicle to reach young fans while honoring the senior student-athletes from the previous season.
“This is a kid-friendly event,” Dahm said. “A lot of times everyone thinks banquets are for adults, but we always try to get a lot of kids here and get them exposed to Iowa baseball and our players.”
The fifth annual Iowa baseball Lead-Off Dinner will be Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Coralville Marriott Hotel. A VIP Reception begins at 5 p.m. with dinner and program beginning at 6:30. Last year nearly 600 people attended. Dahm said ticket-holders can get autographs from the Hawkeye players and participate in live and silent auctions.
“The Lead-Off Dinner does a little bit of everything,” Dahm said. “The main reason we put this together was to create awareness and interest in Iowa baseball. We also honor last year’s seniors which is very important to me. That kind of gets lost in the shuffle. But those are the guys helping us turn the program around and we would not be where we are right now if not for our former players. The Lead-Off Dinner also gets our players and fans excited about the upcoming season.”
Fergie Jenkins, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Cubs, Rangers, Red Sox and Phillies, will be the featured speaker. Also in attendance will be former Hawkeye players who are now playing professional baseball — shortstop Jason White (Baltimore Orioles organization), outfielder Travis Sweet (Houston Astros organization), catcher Dusty Napoleon (Oakland A’s organization) and pitcher Nathan Johnson (Philadelphia Phillies organization).
The 2007 seniors will be honored and will receive their class rings. The Bob Oldis, Jr., Most Valuable Player Award will also be announced and presented by professional scout Bob Oldis, Sr.
Live auction prizes include being batboy at a Chicago Cubs game, tickets to a Chicago Bears game, a bus trip and 50 tickets to the Iowa at Iowa Cubs baseball game and a suite at a Cedar Rapids Kernels game. Other prizes include one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia from Dallas Clark, Ryne Sandberg, Nate Kaeding, Tony Gwynn, Brooks Robinson, Deion Sanders, Kirk Hinrich, Bruce Sutter, Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt. Ticket-holders will receive a complimentary team poster, schedule cards and a team cup/coffee mug.
“It’s fun to see how this has grown,” Dahm said. “It’s definitely moving in the right direction. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve brought in some great speakers with a message to our players and also to the people attending.”
There are four levels of pricing for the dinner. The first is a table for nine for the dinner and program, with access the to the VIP reception for $475. An individual ticket to the dinner, program and VIP reception is $60 and an adult individual ticket for dinner and program is $35. A youth ticket for ages 12 and under is $20. For more information, call UI Sports Marketing at 319-335-9431.
“We’ve continued to grow the event over the years and we’re excited about how the Lead-Off Dinner has been received by fans,” said Toby Trail, director of marketing at Iowa. “This is a great opportunity to get baseball on people’s minds in the middle of winter. It’s a good time.”
Iowa opens its baseball season Friday, Feb. 22, against Albany at the Notre Dame Tournament in Clearwater, Fla. For the first time, Iowa will sell season tickets to all home baseball games. A discount will be given at the Lead-Off Dinner. Last season the Hawkeyes finished 31-23 overall, 18-12 in the Big Ten Conference (fourth place) and advanced to the league tournament.
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