CHICAGO – With one week to go before its 2012 season opener against Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), head coach Mike Feminis and the 2011 NAIA National Champion Saint Xavier University football team were excited about the opportunity to take a break from the grind of preseason practice and head over to U.S. Cellular Field Saturday evening for a Chicago White Sox game against the Seattle Mariners. It proved to be a very memorable experience as the team and coaches were honored on the field prior to the game and Feminis threw out the ceremonial first pitch. For some of the SXU team captains, the pre-game events proved even more rewarding as greetings and photo opportunities with White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn and Olympic gold medalist swimmer Conor Dwyer highlighted the night.
"I'm a huge fan of the Olympics, so meeting a gold medalist athlete like Conor Dwyer was a true honor for me," said senior wide receiver and captain Shane Zackery. "The Olympic swimming events in London were among my favorites to watch, so getting the chance to meet one of the swimmers and hold his gold medal was something I will never forget. Plus, being on U.S. Cellular Field and meeting Adam Dunn before the game was also really special. This was such a great experience!
The entire 2012 Saint Xavier University football roster as well as some graduated seniors from last year's national championship squad gathered in the centerfield tunnel minutes prior to the opening pitch. Following the warning track along the left field wall and making their way all the way down to home plate, the SXU players and coaches waved to fans in the stands and carried their 2011 NAIA National Championship banner ahead of them for all to see, while public address announcer Gene Honda introduced the team and their accomplishment to the stadium. Following the pre-game parade, the team gathered in the left field bleachers to watch the game. The White Sox held on to claim a 5-4 victory over the Mariners and Saint Xavier University sponsored the post-game fireworks.
"This was such an amazing night, not just for our team, but for Saint Xavier University," said Feminis. "As a life-long Sox fan, getting the opportunity to be out on the field and throw out the first pitch was a dream come true. They run a world-class operation at U.S. Cellular Field and I can't thank them enough for their hospitality Saturday. I know it is something our players will never forget."
Saint Xavier gets back to business this week with its 2012 season opener scheduled for Saturday, September 1, against Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais, Ill. The game starts at 6 p.m. at Ward Field as the Cougars begin their national title defense.