East Carolina University donors, fans and media members arrived at Brook Valley Country club for a “Night with Godwin” Sept. 21, anticipating the arrival of the fourth-year head coach Cliff Godwin and some of his baseball players.
Before the dinner and speeches started, Godwin and players, such as third year starting outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton, pitchers Ryan Ross and Jake Agnos along with 12 other teammates mingled with the crowd during the events’ social hour.
Most of the event guests were ECU alum or older members of the Greenville community who are part of the ECU Pirate Club, so from an outside perspective it may have looked tedious, according to Brady Wainwright, the Pitt County Representative for SPC. However, these Pirates loved getting to know the people who help pay for things such as the new scoreboard in Clark-LeClair Stadium and scholarships members of the team have received.
“It’s awesome coming around and having a bunch of supporters around you and knowing that they’ll always have your back no matter what,” Ross said. “They’ve been part of this school longer than I have. I’ve only been here two years and I already feel part of the family.”
After the social hour concluded, the 120 people who bought tickets to the event took their seats accompanied by one baseball player at each table. During the dinner portion, the player at each table could answer questions from guests around them as well as share stories from the previous season(s).
Each player shared a range of information from their thoughts on the event, the upcoming season opponents, their journey to the Pirates’ baseball team, their offseason and summer training and more.
“This is the least we could do for these people, they put so much time and effort,” Agnos said. “They put up money and that’s the reason we get all the stuff we get; nothing would be possible without them.”
After everyone had nearly finished their dinner, Godwin took to the podium to talk about last season and how he, his coaching staff and the players themselves look to improve during this upcoming season.
“Last year, I don’t run from it,” Godwin said. “It was like you get to the top of the water and somebody’s punching you again, and it’s me who takes the blame for that because I didn’t equip our guys.”
Although the team was more focused on the preseason No. 6 ranking and the pressure to reach Omaha from the get-go, Godwin did focus on many positives that came from last season. The Pirates’ roster had nine seniors, all of whom either graduated and obtained jobs, or are finishing internships and credit hours in order to graduate this December.
ECU also had a First Team Academic All-American in redshirt senior catcher Travis Watkins for the first time in the program since 2002, as well as the highest GPA in the American Athletic Conference for the second straight year. Graduated second baseman Charlie Yorgen also picked up a Third Team Academic All-American honor.
Godwin is sticking to his vision of getting one percent better everyday, a memo he has printed out and placed on each locker. He said the team strayed away from this approach last season and wants to get back to the winning ways the program is familiar with and known for.
“We want to win 40 games, we want to win the American Athletic Conference Championship regular season, we want to host a Regional, we want to host a Super-Regional and we want to go to the College World Series and win a national championship,” Godwin said.
The ECU Pirate Club is currently working on future events in the coming months like this one with the baseball program, as this event sold out quicker than expected. ECU will begin its fall league schedule on Oct. 5 for the team’s first intrasquad scrimmage.