Chapter Spotlight

Riding High at MLB Spring Training

By Sarah Thien

Alumni pros like Angels reliever Bud Norris (Business Administration '06), left, and minor league Burlington Bees right fielder John Schuknecht (Communication Studies '12), right, mingled with Cal Poly alumni and fans at the Varsity Club's inaugural Cactus Club Mixer.

At a mixer at Major League Baseball’s spring training camp in Tempe, Ariz., this year, scores of Cal Poly alumni — many current or former professional athletes — talked about their shared experiences as Mustangs in between warm-up games featuring some of the league’s biggest stars.

It was the inaugural Cactus Club Mixer, the new flagship event of the Cal Poly Varsity Club. This group, founded in 2015, is a Cal Poly Alumni Association chapter dedicated to serving former Mustang student-athletes.

“I was expecting the general alumni to be excited to meet pro baseball players,” said Kelly Bannon Lashley, (B.A., Political Science, ’95), a softball alumna who founded the group and coordinated the event. “What I wasn’t expecting was how thrilled the players were to have Cal Poly Athletics leadership and so many alumni out to Arizona to meet and support them.”

The group’s leadership is made up of alumni from all 18 of the university’s sports teams. Those alumni now serve one of the mostly highly-engaged groups in the CPAA, a team of volunteers who are taking the state by storm and leaving a trail of school spirit in their wake.

“As a grad, I would come back for softball alumnae events,” Lashley said. “But I missed the greater community and camaraderie I had with all of the other intercollegiate athletes at Cal Poly as a student.”

The spring training mixer is only one of the Varsity Club’s many events throughout the year. Working with regional alumni chapters, the group’s “Road Game Warriors” committee has co-hosted more than 15 events at Cal Poly away games in the past year, from Washington State to San Diego and everywhere in between.

The 2018 Cactus Club Mixer is officially on the docket for next spring and all alumni are welcome to join the fun. Also in the works for the chapter: continuing outreach to students and alumni in the quest to fill stadiums and arenas across the country with fans in green and gold.

Check out the Varsity Club’s popular Facebook page where you’ll find the popular “Where Are They Now Wednesday” posts featuring updates on former student-athletes.

To learn more about the Cal Poly Varsity Club, find the chapter on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and update your contact info under the Varsity Club tab at gopoly.com.

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