MURFREESBORO — A partnership between MTSU baseball, MT Athletics and the MTSU Veterans and Military Family Center is reinforcing the university’s mission to support academic success for student veterans on campus.
MTSU had 28 full-time undergraduate student veterans with a 4.0 cumulative GPA during the fall semester.
To highlight the academic focus of the MTSU veterans program, the veterans center and the Division of Student Affairs have created the themes of “MTSU: Home of the Soldier Scholar” and “The Soldier Scholar Resides Here.”
A public kickoff of this effort happens Friday, Feb. 26, at the first-ever baseball game between the Blue Raiders and the Army West Point Golden Knights, starting at 3 p.m. at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
Meanwhile, “Salute Saturday” home games will feature seven student veterans with 4.0 GPAs throwing out the ceremonial first pitch as the Blue Raiders continue to wear their special camouflage MT caps for those games.
“We are emphasizing the idea of home — a place you reside and are always welcome,” said Dr. Hilary Miller, first-year director of the center and co-collaborator of the soldier-scholar theme with Dr. Deb Sells, vice president of Student Affairs and vice provost for Enrollment and Academic Services.
“We want this to be their home … where they will return to even after graduation,” added Miller, who received solid support for this relationship endeavor with baseball from Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for Veterans and Leadership Initiatives and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general.
ROTC cadet Shanika Willis will throw the ceremonial first pitch for the MTSU-Army game. A College of Graduate Studies double major in chemistry and business administration, Willis is also president of the Blue Raider American Veteran Organization, or BRAVO, and a Veterans and Military Family Center employee.
Throwing out first pitches for future Salute Saturdays will be Forrest Roberts on Feb. 27, Justin Whited on March 19, Jason Brown on April 2, Cadet Joel Whitehead on April 16, Myisshia Pitts on April 30 and Dakota Maynard on May 21. Grad student LaShunda Simmons threw out the first pitch on Feb. 20.
In April, MTSU will designate a special P.O.W. seat inside the baseball stadium that will always remain empty in memory of prisoners of war, Miller said.
MTSU baseball coach Jim McGuire, who is excited about the new baseball-veterans partnership and who approached Miller with the first-pitch idea, said he thought “it would be a neat thing to bring Army here” for a game.
The Feb. 26 matchup is part of a round robin where the Golden Knights also will play at Lipscomb University Saturday, Feb. 27, and at Belmont University Sunday, Feb. 28. McGuire credits Brian Ryman, baseball operations manager for Lipscomb, for originating the idea.
A number of West Point alumni and friends are planning to attend the game, Miller said.
Following the MTSU-Army game, both teams and many contracted cadets in the military science program will be treated to a barbecue meal in Murphy Center.
The MTSU Veterans and Military Family Center opened in November on the first floor in the Keathley University Center. Following the center’s Nov. 5 grand opening, Military Times announced MTSU had received its “Best for Vets 2016” designation for the third straight year and the university also is a Military Friendly school.
To learn more about MTSU’s veterans program, which includes VetSuccess on Campus, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/military/index.php.