July 17, 2008
LOS ANGELES - The Fresno State baseball team, fresh off its NCAA championship and one of the most exciting of recent College World Series, spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Los Angeles as a part of the ESPY Awards program. The Bulldogs were nominated in the category of "Best Upset", and although the Dogs did not win the award, their experience is one that will have a lasting impact on the program.
The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants won the award, one of three ESPY's the Giants won on the night. The Best Upset Award was the first of 37 awards presented during the ceremony in a packed Nokia Theatre, which sits adjacent to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Academy Award winning actor Forrest Whittaker and race car driver Danica Patrick presented the award in Best Upset category.
The ESPYs were hosted by Justin Timberlake and can be seen Sunday at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN.
"I guess I don't feel bad about losing the ESPY," said pitcher Justin Wilson, one of three student-athletes representing the team. "When you lose to the Super Bowl Champions, what shame is there in that? It was an awesome experience. One I'll never forget."
Fresno State's ESPY experience started with a private reception at the host hotel, the Standard-Downtown. All of the nominees were present. From there, the Bulldogs were taken by limo to the Nokia Theatre where a walk down the red carpet was waiting. During the reception Bulldog head coach Mike Batesole connected with Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self, and the two national champion coaches shared stories of their historic seasons.
"We were so excited for the Bulldogs," said Self. "We were glued to our TVs and watched every game. We were rooting for the Bulldogs. It was a great story."
Thousands of fans and hundreds of media lined the red carpet entering the venue to catch a glimpse of the celebrities. Joining Fresno State on a section of the red carpet were actor Samuel L. Jackson, Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Marcus Allen, Dallas Cowboys' receiver Terrell Owens and NBA superstar Carmello Anthony.
While making their way toward the theatre, ESPN icon Chris Berman tracked down the Bulldogs to congratulate them on their NCAA championship and accomplishment and he posed for photos with the group.
"What these guys accomplished was amazing," said Berman. "Sports needs more stories like these WonderDogs. It was great for college sports and college baseball. Truly exciting."
Media members interviewed the Bulldogs and a long line of paparazzi photographers snapped photos as the group traveled a couple hundred yards.
Once inside the theatre, the Dogs were offered prime seat locations in the center of the nominees' section. Football player Brett Favre was in the front row of the Bulldogs' section. Favre was honored by Berman for the top "Record Setting Performance" of the year.
Other celebrities presenting awards during the ESPY Awards included: Greg Kinnear, Brendan Fraser, Kristen Bell, Ashanti, Zac Efron, Samuel L. Jackson, Jet Li, Steve Nash, David Ortiz, Annika Sorenstam and Will Farrell.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award was given to 1968 U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos. There will be two other special awards as well. The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance will honor former Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett, who was severely injured in last year's season opener but has begun to walk again. The ESPY golf tournament raised $1 million for the V Foundation.
Afterwards, the Dogs attended a "post party" that featured music, dancing and an exhibition by X Games athletes. Some of the notables who attended that party included former Bulldog football stars and current NFL players Bernard Berrian and Damon Jenkins, plus countless athletes from all sports, including NFL greats Kellen Winslow, Sr., Jerry Rice and Marcus Allen.
The World Champion New York Giants and Boston Celtics were also in attendance as were celebrities from television and film.
"This whole experience was surreal," said head coach Mike Batesole. "Being in such company and nominated for an ESPY award is truly a tribute to a bunch of hard-working kids. It was great to showcase our program to so many different people in the sports world. This was a special night for Fresno State and Bulldog baseball."
Join the State - Fresno State! The Bulldog baseball team will appear on the ESPY Awards Sunday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
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