February 2, 2006
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138, email@example.com
Former major league pitcher and longtime Bakersfield resident George Culver will spearhead California State University, Bakersfield’s effort to bring baseball to CSUB.
Culver’s appointment to the fundraising team working to move CSUB’s athletics program to NCAA Division I was announced today at a news conference at CSUB.
“We are delighted that a person of George Culver’s stature is helping to make this long-held dream of baseball at CSUB a reality,” CSUB President Horace Mitchell said. “Baseball is an important program for CSUB as we move into Division I, and with George on board I’m confident that we’ll be successful. We welcome him to the CSUB family and anticipate a successful outcome from his endeavors.”
“George Culver has the background and contacts to help us in our efforts to raise money for our planned baseball program here at CSUB,” said Michael Chertok, vice president of university advancement at CSUB. “We are extremely pleased to have him on our fundraising team. He has a long history of helping make Bakersfield College’s baseball program a model for community colleges, and he anticipates the same level of success for CSUB.
I am most pleased to announce his association with the university, and am looking forward to the day when the first pitch is thrown by a Roadrunner pitcher.”
CSUB is raising $6 million to fund the move to Division I athletics.
Culver will be working to raise $2.5 million of that total to fund the baseball program.
A right-handed pitcher, Culver grew up in Bakersfield and graduated from North High School in 1961. He pitched for two years at Bakersfield College before being drafted by the New York Yankees in 1963. He struck out 18 in one of his first professional games, and made his major league debut in
1966 with the Cleveland Indians. During his nine-year career, in which he compiled a 48-49 record and saved 23 games, he also pitched for the Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.
In 1968, as a starter for the Reds, he pitched a no-hitter against the Phillies. From 1970 on, he was a long reliever, and often led his club in appearances.
After his playing career was over, he managed for a year in the California League, then spent 18 years with the Phillies as a coach and manager in their minor-league system, managing teams at both the AA and AAA level.
He joined the Dodgers as a pitching instructor in 2001, resigning after the 2005 season “in order to be able to take this job if it became available,” he said. “Lucky enough for me it did. For me it’s an ideal situation because I’m home and working for something I think will be special.”
Culver said the time is right to begin a baseball program at CSUB.
“Baseball has always had a huge following in Bakersfield,” he said. “A lot of people are involved in baseball here. We have 12 Bakersfield people in professional baseball, and two of them in the major leagues. This year we could have as many as four high school pitchers drafted by major league teams.
“My whole feeling is that this is an exciting thing to get a team, then get a park, and then see them combined. And Division I is great. People just want to see baseball out here. Having a team at CSUB would elevate the caliber of baseball around here.
“College baseball is so good because it’s fast, and there’s a lot of spirit involved. College baseball is much livelier; you can get fired up for a two or three-game series, and the college season is 50-60 games.”
Culver expressed confidence in the outcome of his efforts. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we are going to raise the money,” he said. “It’s going to take everyone in this community, but this town never ceases amazing me with its generosity. If people here think it’s a good project they get behind it. People always want to help.”
And once the program starts, Culver sees a bright future for it. “We have plenty of local talent here, and more and more on the way with all the youth leagues,” he said.
Also supporting the baseball fundraising effort are three former major league players from Kern County: Junior Kennedy, an Arvin High school graduate and former No. 1 pick of the Baltimore Orioles, who played for Cincinnati and the Chicago Cubs; John Hale of Wasco, who played for the Dodgers and Seattle Mariners; and Rick Sawyer, who played at East Bakersfield High School and pitched for the Yankees and San Diego Padres.