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    TIM PEELER: Raleigh's Home for the Hollidays
     
     

    BY TIM PEELER

     

    RALEIGH, N.C. Baseball has always been, and likely will always be, a father-son sport, a bonding opportunity mixed with dust and sunflower seeds.

     

    So imagine the pride of a father who has watched his son win the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award, get robbed of the overall NL MVP Award and play in two All-Star Games and a World Series.

     

    That’s been the life of NC State associate baseball coach Tom Holliday, and Friday night, he helped put those experiences on stage at the Rally Club’s First Pitch Banquet at the Crabtree Marriott by bringing his son, Colorado Rockies All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday, to town as the primary speaker.

     

    The banquet is an annual event sponsored by the Rally Club, a non-profit volunteer organization that raises money to augment the NC State baseball budget. This year’s event brought in more than $25,000, thanks to a sold-out ballroom of 346 ticket-buying guests. There were more than 400 people in the room, for the dinner to officially kick off the baseball season, including the NC State baseball staff and every current member of the Wolfpack roster.

     

    Opening day for the Wolfpack is just over two weeks away. The season begins with a three-game series against Appalachian State Feb. 22-24 at Doak Field at Dail Park. Less than 200 season tickets for the coming season are still available, according to NC State associate athletics director Dick Christy. Ticket information is available here, or on the attached ticket brochure.

     

    Much of the money raised Friday came from ticket sales and sponsorships, but a good portion also came from a silent auction that included tickets to three games of the 2008 World Series, tickets to the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., tickets to this year’s Final Four in San Antonio, and tickets to this summer’s MLB All-Star Game, for which Matt Holliday is almost assured a starting spot, if he performs anything like he did in 2007.

     

    Last year was a break-out season for Holliday and the Rockies. He had been selected for the All-Star game once before, playing in his dad’s home state of Pennsylvania.

     

    He earned his spot with remarkable numbers. He led the National League in batting, hits, doubles, extra bases, total bases and runs batted in. He finished fourth in home runs, missing out on the Triple Crown because Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder hit 14 more home runs than he did.

     

    Friday night, Holliday shared some of his experiences with the NC State baseball family, of which is parents, Tom and Kathy, have been a part for two years now. He also spent some time taking a little batting practice at Doak Field, with two separate sessions Friday and another on Saturday morning.

     

    Former major league relief pitcher George Frazier, who is now the voice of the Colorado Rockies, shared the stage with Matt Holliday, prodding him for memories of the Rockies wild ride to the 2007 World Series and fielding questions from the audience.

     

    Frazier said he knew five players who were better people than players. Dave Winfield was one. The late Kirby Puckett was another. And Matt Holliday was the last one he named, to the delight of Tom and Kathy Holliday, who sat at their table with daughter-in-law Leslee and grandsons Jackson and Ethan.

     

    Matt Holliday was an essential part of the Rockies unbelievable run to the World Series, which included seven straight wins over the Phillies and the Diamondbacks in the playoffs and an unprecedented late-season streak of winning 21 of 22 games. Only an eight-day layoff before the series started derailed the Rockies’ streak, and Boston topped Colorado in the World Series.

     

    “It was a great ride,” Holliday said. “For us to make it to the World Series was quite a feat.”

     

    That was all well and good a streak for the ages and every kid’s dream come true but perhaps the greatest moment for the Holliday family came last July, in San Francisco. Not only was Matt selected for the game, he was also a last-minute invitee for the Home Run Derby the day before. He selected as his pitcher his older brother, Josh, a former NC State assistant coach under Elliott Avent who is now the associate head coach at Arizona State.

     

    Josh had just taken the job with the Sun Devils and caught a late flight to the Bay Area and had no idea he was going to have to throw batting practice in front of 40,000 people. But he put the ball over the plate, and Matt hit 13 shots over the fences at AT&T Park.

     

    “To be honest, as long as I hit one out I didn’t care how many others went out,” Matt told the First Pitch crowd. “I just didn’t want to get shut out. Luckily, I have hit off Josh a lot in my life, and I got that first one out of the way on the first pitch.”

     

    As much as he enjoys the thin air of Coors Field in Denver, Holliday said his favorite places to play were baseball’s most storied ballparks Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.

     

    “I really liked playing in Boston, because with the Green Monster in leftfield, I can’t hear anybody yelling at me or calling me names,” Holliday said.

     

    His most feared pitching rotation? San Diego’s Jake Peavey, Arizona’s Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens in their heydays. His favorite names to see on the list of upcoming starting pitchers? Woody Williams and Kip Wells.

     

    Holliday spent only a couple of days with his family and his parents in Raleigh before he had to leave for the start of spring training in Arizona.

     

    Baseball is only a few weeks away, and fathers and sons everywhere are ready to roll.

     

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.


     

     

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