Here's the pitch . . .
A lanky right-hander warmed up near the batting cages as the UTA baseball team gathered in the dugout for last-minute instructions. The Mavericks were preparing to play Oklahoma State under the lights at Clay Gould Ballpark on a picturesque April evening.
Sporting a UTA baseball cap, the pitcher looked the part—at least from the neck up. His delivery was smooth, his throws on target. Maybe it was the starched shirt, tie, suit pants and dress shoes that gave him away.
Meet UTA’s new president, Jim Spaniolo, practicing to toss out the ceremonial first pitch.
He had already made dozens of verbal pitches since signing on Feb. 1—at civic organizations, scholarship events, symposiums and alumni, faculty, staff and student gatherings. He had met with charitable foundations, presidents and chancellors of other universities and with business leaders and elected officials. He’d even introduced Desmond Tutu before the archbishop spoke to a packed Texas Hall in March.
I attended many of the public gatherings, often joking with friends that I was on the Spaniolo world tour. I had permission to tag along, but I often wondered if he thought I was stalking him, pen and paper in hand, scribbling observations and quotes seemingly every time he spoke.
One such event was a bowling fund-raiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters in the E.H. Hereford University Center.
“I’m here shadowing you,” I reminded him as we shook hands.
“Right,” he said with a smile before kicking off the event by picking up a spare.
As I reviewed my notes for this issue, several messages leaped out:
Back at the ballpark, the public address announcer introduced the special guest. Spaniolo, now sans tie, strode to the mound. With a deliberate windup and high leg kick, he threw the ball.
“He painted the corner,” catcher Brett Lewis said. That’s baseball lingo for “perfect pitch.”
Here’s to many more in the coming years.
— Mark Permenter