There was a large crowd on hand Saturday night for Ellsworth Community College Head Baseball Coach Travis Akre's first annual Lead-Off Dinner at Highland Golf Club. Attendees enjoyed a meal prepared by Athletic Director Nate Forsyth, met this year's ECC baseball team, honored longtime Ellsworth baseball coaching legend Marty Dittmer, and enjoyed a keynote address from former pitcher and coach Kevin Benzing of Marshalltown.
Benzing played for Indian Hills Community College and finished his collegiate career at Western Kentucky University. He was a free agent signee with the Cleveland Indians in 1982. Upon finishing his playing career, he was an assistant coach for Western Kentucky for one year, an assistant at St. Mary's (MN) for one year, head coach at Washington University in St. Louis for four years, and assistant coach at Indian Hills Community College for six years before moving to Marshalltown, where he started the MCC baseball program and was head coach for seven years. Benzing currently helps coach his sons' high school baseball team and is a faculty member at Marshalltown Community College.
Coach Akre introduced the ECC baseball coaching staff: Assistant Coaches Pedro Hernandez and Jordan Camp and Volunteer Assistant Hernan Ramos. Coach Akre previewed the upcoming season and urged baseball supporters to follow the team on the ECC athletic website via the new Game Changer. He thanked all those in attendance (which included many former Panther baseball players) for their support and said he hopes to continue the Lead-Off Dinner tradition next year.
A silent auction was held to raise additional funds for the Martin Dittmer (baseball) Scholarship. Winners were Dan Thilges (Joe Mauer baseball), Bryan Edwards (Jared Allen football), Hernan Ramos (Tony La Russa photo), TJ Cominsky (Goose Gossage baseball), John Boleyn (Jason Giambi photo), Brad Bjerke (Rollie Fingers picture), Steve Roberts (Marc Trestman baseball and Tony Oliva baseball), John Hennen (golf club/driver), Jeff Lubinski (2007 Arizona State bat), and Chad Brink (Robyn Young baseball).
Photo Caption 1 – Head Coach Travis Akre spoke to a packed room at the Highland Golf Club.
Photo Caption 2 – Retired ECC Head Coach Marty Dittmer and his wife, Kathy, enjoy a laugh during the evening program.
Photo Caption 3 – Pictured before the program, from left: Assistant Coach Pedro Hernandez, guest speaker Kevin Benzing, Head Coach Travis Akre, retired Coach Marty Dittmer, and Assistant Coach Jordan Camp.
Photo Caption 4 – Marty and Kathy Dittmer visited with ECC Provost Dr. Nancy Muecke and her husband, Ron, before dinner.
Photo Caption 5 – Several friends and former ECC baseball players attended the Lead-Off Dinner, including this group from the 1999-2000 seasons.
Photo Caption 6 – It was time to reconnect and share ECC memories for this group of baseball alumni.