Burbank Baseball Alumni Game Set For Tons Of Fun

On Saturday, the annual Burbank Baseball Alumni Game will be contested and will feature a Home Run Derby, and other festivities.

The Burbank High Alumni Baseball Game will be played February 3 at Bulldog Field. (Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

By Rick Assad

A reunion gives an individual a chance to see old friends, get reacquainted, reflect and talk about the fun times.

On Saturday, February 3, at the Burbank High baseball field, the annual Alumni Game will take place at 6 p.m., following the Home Run Derby which begins at 5 p.m.

“The alumni game represents an opportunity to honor former players and their legacy as Bulldog baseball players,” said Bob Hart, the longtime Burbank skipper. “It’s also a great illustration to our current players as to the importance of creating lasting memories and relationships.”

Gatherings such as the one Saturday, bring many players together, including Shad Ortiz, who played on the 1991 Foothill League championship Burbank team, just a year removed from winning just six games.

The squad won its first round CIF Southern Section playoff game but then lost to Huntington Beach in the second round. 

Ortiz, who played shortstop and was one of a number of key members, then toiled at Glendale Community College for one season, and also walked-on at the University of Oklahoma.

“For me, I like going to Alumni Games because I like to share with the kids that they can accomplish so much,” explained Ortiz, a 25-year resident of Burbank and a current Newall resident. “I went to Van Nuys High, and the [baseball] team was horrible, and I went to Montclair Prep for the 11th grade, and we won the CIF title.”

Ortiz went on: “I transferred to Burbank and at first, I wasn’t eligible, but that was straightened out and we won like 18 or 20 games after winning just six games the year before,” he said. “I remember having to play Hart [High] and on the bus ride, some of the players seemed nervous because they were pretty good. I told them I’ve beaten them before.”

Confident, for sure, but Ortiz, who has a 23-year-old daughter Natalia and a 20-year-old son A.J., has excellent baseball bloodlines given his brother, Russ Ortiz, pitched for the University of Oklahoma, where the Sooners won the College World Series in 1994 and also carved out a 12-year Major League Baseball career in which he went 113-89 with six teams including a one-year stint with the Dodgers, and a six-year stay with the San Francisco Giants where he pitched in the 2002 World Series versus the Angels.

Hart is oftentimes reflective and acknowledges the importance of previous history.

A flyer for Saturday’s Alumni Baseball Game. (Photo courtesy Brigette Baker-Snyder)

“I think it’s a great moment to recognize and show our gratitude for their contributions. Our tremendous Booster Club does a fabulous job of organizing and putting on a great show,” he said. “It takes a lot of people to make a program successful. I, along with our players and coaches, have been very blessed in the support we receive.”

Hart knows a program is only as strong as the support system, and of course the players who came before.

“Our culture emanates from many different areas and we benefit in so many ways, from our parents and booster support,” he said. “Ultimately the message is gratitude.”

Bridgette Baker-Snyder is the Burbank Baseball Booster Club president.

“The alumni game is an incredible event that allows our BHS baseball alumni to return to their alma mater and take on the team. Our coaches work extremely hard to not only train our athletes on the sport of baseball but to create an experience,” she pointed out. “They may not remember every game or every play…..but they will remember their teammates and the experiences they shared.”

Baker-Snyder added: “It is about creating memories. We have a tremendous turnout of alumni every year because of those experiences,” she said. “Always wonderful to see players reminiscing about their experience 10, 20 plus years ago. We have had folks attend from across the country.”

Baker-Snyder went down the list of what will take place on Saturday.

“We anticipate around 20 to 25 alumni playing on the alumni team.  The team will then determine who will be participating in the Home Run Derby,” she said. “This is a fan favorite, for all of the families of our athletes, current and graduated. We have music, between inning contests with prizes, food and an incredible night of baseball. Doesn’t get any better than that!”

Baker-Snyder continued: “While we will not have a guest speaker, we will be honoring the champion team from 1991. We have several members of that team returning to the BHS field to celebrate their championship win,” she said. “Shad Ortiz, who was on that team, has done an amazing job of bringing the team together. Some of them have not been back to the field since. It will be wonderful to host all of our athletes on the field. We will just have to see if they still got what it takes.”

The Booster Club is an essential part of why the team has been successful.

“We have an incredible booster board that works year-round to provide funding for our program. Our fundraising provides our student-athletes with funds for equipment, uniforms, transportation to and from games, and coaches,” Baker-Snyder said. “Everything from game balls, uniforms, hats, field maintenance, safety needs. Our schools have received so many budget cuts that unfortunately, most boosters are responsible for supplementing the costs to even run a program.”

The Booster Club is tasked with many worthwhile events, according to Baker-Snyder.

“This year, our board is also focused on creating an enhanced experience that our families and athletes will remember for years,” she said. “We do this through events such as the Alumni Game, Veterans’ Night, Veterans pancake breakfast, team meals and volunteer opportunities as a team to give back to the community.”

Baker-Snyder also wanted to highlight the efforts made by the parents.

“We have an amazing group of parents and athletes who show up and support our team,” she noted. “They volunteer, donate and fundraise. If it were not for them, our program would not exist.”