Preview Party Creates Memories for Longtime Fan
in February 2012
My Carolina member Cherie Menchinger, '81, attended the Baseball/Softball Preview Party on Thursday, February 9, even though she couldn't coordinate her schedule with her son, whom she was planning on accompanying her to the event. She'd spent weeks sidelined with an illness and was finally on her way back to health, so she figured seeing her beloved Gamecocks baseball team at the annual My Carolina "fanfest" event would lift her spirits.
Little did she know, Cherie was about to experience one of the biggest fan moments of her life.
"Unbelievable," Cherie says. "I almost said, 'I'm too tired to go.' My son didn't return my text, but I said, 'Forget it; I'm going!' and within fifteen minutes of being in here, I got my picture taken with Michael Roth!"
A Mutually Respectful Tradition
In what Cherie describes as a "dream come true," the baseball season ticket holder and former Sarge Frye concession stand worker who currently teaches students with mental disabilities found that the old adage "ask, and you shall receive" worked out in her favor on this evening.
More than 600 University of South Carolina alumni, fans and their families attended the 2012 preview party, an annual event. This year, the event was exclusive to members of My Carolina Alumni Association, the Gamecock Club and the Dugout Club.
It had been several years since Kim Truett, '95, official University of South Carolina photographer, had taken photographs for this particular event, and the respect shown by the players impressed her. Equally impressive was the fan support and the willingness of the guests to wait for autographs of the championship-winning coach and players, a tradition that has marked this event as a unique opportunity for fans and players to interact.
"People seemed happy to wait in line for quite a while to get their autographs," Kim said. "The children were playing games that were set up for them, and the parents watched them as they stood in line. It all seemed to work out well."
A Magical Evening
Kim remarked at how polite and enthusiastic the baseball and softball players were as they signed autographs for more than two-and-a-half hours, greeting each guest as if he or she were the first one they met that evening. Players and coaches signed Back-to-Back National Championship commemorative baseballs given away to members of My Carolina Alumni Association as well as bats, gloves, hats, shirts, posters and anything else brought from home by those in attendance.
She also expressed how rewarding it was to play a role in making a My Carolina member such as Cherie so incredibly happy, as Kim was the one who took the photograph of Cherie and Michael, and therefore witnessed the joy firsthand.
Cherie clearly walked away from the event a very happy Gamecock.
"What a wonderful event, even better than last year," she says. "The unexpected twist of having my photo taken with Michael Roth was an absolutely unforgettable moment. I have such respect for that young man as a player and as a person of such exceptional character and work ethic on and off the field. It meant a lot to me to get to personally wish him my best."
One of the All-Time Greats
For those unfamiliar with senior Michael Roth, he is the All-American pitcher from Greer, South Carolina, who has carved his name in Gamecock lore for his clutch performances in postseason action during the back-to-back championship run, making him a local hero and certainly one of the most familiar players on the current roster. Named the 2011 National Player of the Year, Michael's focus on academics as an international business major is equally inspiring, as he earned the NCAA Elite 88 Award for the student-athlete with the highest grade point average of the eight schools at the 2011 College World Series.
He, along with the other baseball and softball players on the 2012 squads, happily made time for Gamecock supporters on this evening that earned rave reviews from the coaching staffs.
"The baseball and softball teams were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from attending fans. Giving our members the opportunity to connect with the players makes this event so memorable," said Elizabeth Muth, '05, My Carolina director of alumni engagement.
The Wait Is Over
Plans are in place for next year's annual event, but until then, it's time to cheer on the defending champions, a passion that Cherie has been waiting since June to resume.
She, along with a large group of longtime supporters from when Cherie worked the concession stand behind home plate at Sarge Frye Field, will tailgate in Lot 1 outside Carolina Stadium with their famous hot dogs known as "homewrecker dawgs" and an extensive music collection that keeps fans of all ages tapping their toes in anticipation for the ballgame.
As for her picture with Michael Roth?
"My hallway is a veritable Gamecock baseball 'shrine' of photographs and memorabilia, including the framed governor’s proclamation and photo of the Gamecock flag flying over the South Carolina State House," Cherie says. "This photograph will be framed and placed in a prominent place!"