When 2006 grad Kyle Williams found out he was a starting pitcher in the second annual Alton High alumni baseball game, he was excited. When he found out he’d be facing a 1969 AHS grad to lead things off, he was nervous.
Williams didn’t know much about opposing batter Gary Hagen. A 2015 Alton Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, Hagen was quarterback on the 1968 Redbird football team (9-0-1) and a standout baseball player, selected by the Atlanta Braves as a pitcher in the 12th round of the ‘69 MLB Amateur Draft. He played two seasons in the Braves organization.
Hagen started the game with a grounder, reaching safely before asking for a pinch runner. He went on to pick up an RBI single in a later at-bat.
“The funny thing is I know Gary from the golf business because he owns a golf cart company,” said Williams, the golf pro at Rolling Hills and Spencer T. Olin Golf Courses. “I didn’t know his backstory. He’s obviously got to be an all-time athlete at Alton High. The story I have now is he was every bit as good of a football player as he was a baseball player. I hope they gave him an infield hit on that first one. I’m just happy to play with guys like that.”
Hagen even played a little right field, cutting off a ball and firing it back into the infield.
“It’s a great day, people having fun,” Hagen said. “It’s see what you can do and what you’ve lost from the old days.
“I think it would be interesting to say I played when I was 70. We’ll see. I’m 68 now.”
Situations like that fire up Joe Roderick, a 2003 AHS grad and the alumni game’s creator.
The game began in 2018 as a fundraiser for the Alton baseball program. Unfortunately, rain washed it out after two innings last year. The red team won 5-0.
Mother Nature interfered again this season, canceling the original date and rescheduling it for July 5. The red team protected bragging rights, winning 16-3 in 6 innings.
The red team comprised even-year grads, while the black team had odd-year graduates.
“Last year I reached out to a couple of older guys, even to play first base for an inning, or take one at-bat and get a runner; it was just to be out here,” Roderick said. “It was cool for the guys in the dugout just to talk to (Hagen). I’d love to get a ‘17 or ‘18 grad and see a guy who’s 68 to play with a 19- 20-year-old. That’s what this is all about, to enjoy what it is. Nobody is getting drafted or signed off of this game. We’re out here having fun.”
It’s more than fun for the AHS baseball program. The festivities this year raised more than $5,000. A generous donation from Mungenast Alton Toyota helped, as did a successful golf outing for alumni June 14 at Rolling Hills.
Black’s Sporting Goods makes it special, designing personalized jerseys, including rush orders this season with the rainout.
It’s a community effort.
“It was as fun as I thought it was going to be,” Alton principal and former head baseball coach Mike Bellm said, who directed the black team. “You’ve really got to thank Joe Roderick for all the work he did putting this together and also coach (Scott) Harper, he’s been out here since 7 a.m. working on the field.”
Prior to the game, Bellm and Harper presented Roderick his No. 35 jersey from his AHS playing days as appreciation for his commitment.
“We wouldn’t have this without his efforts and that’s why we wanted to recognize him today with the shadow box with his jersey in it,” Harper said.
As for the game it was fun for all in the stands, dugouts and on the field. Williams and 2000 grad Mark Cannon were especially stoked after sharing MVP honors for the game.
“It feels great,” said Cannon, who was 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs. “Just to be out here with the guys I played with is enough, but winning MVP is something special.”
“There’s not anything I’ve done this year that’s been more fun than putting a baseball uniform back on,” Williams added. “(MVP) is a cool thing to get my first time playing. I hope I can repeat performances next year and the year after that.”
Red Team roster
Jimmy McGibney II (1992)
Andrew Johnson (2000)
Mark Cannon (2000)
Chris Scoggins (2004)
Nick Pichee (2004)
Matt Scoggins (2006)
Kyle Williams (2006)
Chris Campbell (2006)
Cody Fry (2006)
Jason McAtee (2008)
Nick Cline (2008)
Randall Pichee (2008)
Tanner Miles (2012)
Larry Nickel, manager (1992)
Black Team roster
Gary Hagen (1969)
Mark Sabo (1975, did not play)
Jason Harmon (1991)
Mike Springman (1997)
Jeff Saville (2001)
Joe Roderick (2003, did not play)
Jake Anderson (2005)
A.J. Baggio (2005)
Chris Mendenhall (2005)
John Kozonasky (2005)
Kyle Berry (2005)
Klint Dix (2005)
Matt Halliday (2013)