THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2007
RECAP: 1976 JU Baseball Reunion
Sept. 13, 2007
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - 1976 Reunion
After more than 30 years, the 1976 JU Baseball team took a trip down memory with a reunion weekend that culminated with an appearance at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville on Aug. 11.
Even though some players still remain on the First Coast, 25 members of the squad got to see each other face-to-face for the first time since they last played together. Prior to making their way Downtown, the players stepped foot on the JU campus for the first time since graduation and paid a visit to John Sessions Stadium to see the changes that have occurred since they last put on a uniform. Some players even took pictures as they posed in their old spots on the field.
As part of the pregame festivities for the Jacksonville Suns contest against the Carolina MudCats, the squad was introduced prior to the game and had a display on the video board during introductions. The team also enjoyed a dinner in the Sundowner Lounge where each player took turns passing around a cell phone so they could talk to their head coach Jack LaMabe. LaMabe was unable to attend the event, due to hip replacement surgery, but his team wished him well, told old stories and thanked him for giving them a chance to play.
The Dolphin squad, which finished with a program-best 45-14 record, finished their magical season ranked ninth in the Collegiate Baseball polls and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. During the South Regional in Tallahassee, the Dolphins reached the final game with wins over Middle Tennessee State and host Florida State but fell one win short of taking a trip to the College World Series. JU was ranked as high as No. 3 in the national polls, the highest ranking ever attained by the Dolphins.
The following are some reflections by the players after seeing each other after all of this time:
Dan Westmoreland - Pitcher : "It's amazing to me how after thirty years, we all got back together and still act like a bunch of kids. I thought it was time for us to get together and I was great to see everyone again. I wish coach LaMabe could have been here but a lot of us are going to make a trip to see him."
Ken Kuiper - Pitcher : "The reunion went very well. I wish we could have seen everyone but there were players who could not make it and some people we could not find. The fact that our coach was not able to come because of health reasons was a shame as well. At times it seemed like we were talking and time had not slipped by and we had been in contact with each other all along. So many great memories were remembered and new ones created--especially learning about everyone's families."
Bill Miller - OF : "It was really great seeing all the guys after 31 years. You know, I wasn't sure if I would be able to recognize everyone but as soon as I saw a face the name came right to me. You know, 1976 was a special year and now I can say the same about 2007."
Mike Teifer - Pitcher : "31 years of not seeing so many teammates /family members is way too long. We had so many positive experiences on and off the field that we were able to look back upon and rehash. It was an awesome experience that I can assure you could not have been any better. There is no way we will wait that long again."
Ray "Smoke" Laval - Catcher : "Good friends and good times turned into better friends and better times. I am sure in the near future the best of friends will become the best of times."
Al "Rocky" Rausch - Shortstop and USA Collegiate All-American : "The JU years were some of the best years of my life, and the relationships with these guys were so critical to all that occurred in my life at that time. Baseball too was terribly important, so to reconnect with so many teammates was and will continue to be so meaningful. And to be able to call Coach Lamabe and pass the phone around was special, he was the reason we were there."
Mike Bowles - Athletic Trainer : "I thought it was a great day for Jacksonville University Baseball. This is a very interesting and notable story for people to read about. I really enjoyed seeing everyone and I had a great time."
Ed Devine - Pitcher : "I was part of the freshman class in '76 and hadn't seen or heard from most of my classmates, let alone the upperclassmen. It was such a blessing to see them all again. It seemed as though time stood still as we all just picked up where we left off, having a good time, joking around, reminiscing about the experiences we shared and making new memories."