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MTSU-Army baseball game spotlights ‘soldier scholar’

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.

Representatives from the MTSU Veterans and Military Family Center were part of the pregame festivities before MTSU Blue Raider baseball's game Friday, Feb. 26, against the team from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point at Reese Smith Jr. Field. From left: Dr. Hilary Miller, center director; 2nd Lt. Teana Harle, Army National Guard; and Cadet Shanika Willis, president of MTSU’s Blue Raiders American Veterans Organization, also known as BRAVO. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

Representatives from the MTSU Veterans and Military Family Center join the pregame festivities before the Blue Raiders’ Feb. 26 baseball game against the team from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point at Reese Smith Jr. Field. From left are Dr. Hilary Miller, center director; 2nd Lt. Teana Harle, Army National Guard; and Cadet Shanika Willis, president of MTSU’s Blue Raider American Veterans Organization, also known as BRAVO. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

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 baseball game between the Blue Raiders and the Army West Point Black 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, 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.”

Dr. Hilary Miller

Dr. Hilary Miller

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 seat inside the baseball stadium that will always remain empty in memory of prisoners of war, Miller said.

Jim McGuire

Jim McGuire

MTSU baseball coach Jim McGuire, who said he’s excited about the new baseball-veterans partnership and who approached Miller with the first-pitch idea, added that 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 Black 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.

About 30 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 www.mtsu.edu/military/index.php.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)