This Saturday, six Penn baseball alumni will be celebrated at the Dinner on the Diamond and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Those inducted will be 2008 College graduate Kyle Armeny, 2015 College graduate Austin Bossart, 1975 Wharton graduate Tom Butler, 2010 College graduate William Gordon, 2017 College graduate Tim Graul, and 2012 College graduate Greg Zebrack.
In addition to this year's hall of fame class, coach John Yurkow, the 2023 Ivy League Champion Quaker team, as well as alumni and family members will be in attendance for the special night.
The entirety of the hall of fame class of 2023 expressed similar sentiments when they received the call from coach Yurkow himself, touching on the rich history of Penn baseball that makes this honor mean that much more.
“When you think about the history of Penn baseball and how long that dates back, to even be considered as one of the [best] to be part of that team is really special, just because of all the history that exists and the amount of great players that have gone through Penn,” Armeny said.
Armeny was a captain in 2008 and an Honorable Mention All-Ivy in 2007.
The Penn Baseball Hall of Fame dates back almost 100 years. While each of the six inductees may have played a different position, or taken on different roles on the team, each of them deeply impacted both Penn and the game itself, which earned them this recognition.
Zebrack, who was first team All-Ivy in 2011 and 2012, also felt the weight of the tradition Penn baseball has had on him as he reflected on his time with the team.
“As you get farther away from the game, you start to appreciate what it means to have played for the program and what it means to have played for the school and [represented] the school, and that's an honor,” Zebrack said.
Butler is a part of a different history, one that won the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League Championship with the Quakers in 1975. This league consisted of all eight Ancient Eight teams as well as Army and Navy — before the Ivy League officially began sponsoring baseball in 1992. He was a pitcher for the team, and remains fourth in ERA all time for the Quakers. Despite saying that he “couldn’t hit worth a damn,” he played an integral role in the 1975 team, boasting a 4-1 Ivy win-loss record and a 1.89 ERA that season.
Butler’s induction places him alongside other Penn baseball legends that played with him during his time at Penn and with whom Butler feels especially proud to be recognized.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized in the same vein as Glenn Partridge, Andy Muhlstock, [and] Don Valenzano,” Butler said. “I wasn't the star of the team. I contributed to the team; I was impactful on the team; but it's just a great honor. Those guys were the heart and soul of the team, and to be honored in a similar vein as [them] is very humbling.”
Two other members of the hall of fame class overlapped in a unique way, not only playing on the same team for two years, but also playing the same position.
“I actually came in my freshman year and I was [a catcher] behind Austin Bossart, funnily enough,” Graul said. “So, I kind of came in with a big wall in front of me because he was the best catcher [I'd] ever seen.”
Bossart was team captain for three years, won Ivy League Player of the Year in 2015, and went on to play professionally for five years with the Phillies and the Mets. Clearly, Graul was faced with some tough competition.
Despite not playing as much as he might have hoped his first two seasons, Graul stayed mentally and physically prepared while taking advantage of the opportunities he was given to play early on in his Penn career. When Bossart graduated after the 2015 season, Graul picked up right where he left off, winning Ivy League Player of the Year in 2016 and cementing his own hall of fame career.
“Coming into my junior year, I was just comfortable with where I was at both as a hitter and just in my life — and boom — I was ready to go game one,” Graul said.
Reflecting on each of their careers and the history of Penn baseball is certainly a major source of pride for each inductee, but the recent success and upward trajectory of the team at the helm of coach Yurkow is also atop their minds.
Since taking the helm in 2014 after seven seasons as an assistant coach, the Red and Blue has done nothing but improve each year, culminating in a record 34-win season and the Ivy League Championship in 2023.
Gordon, who was a captain in 2010 and an Honorable Mention All-Ivy in 2009, played under coach Yurkow when he was still an assistant coach and made particular note of his impact on the program and the success the team is finding today.
“What [Yurkow] has done has been tremendous to watch. He’s an incredible coach: He knows what he’s doing, he’s definitely a player’s coach;,and what he has done with the program over the past few years; it's just been incredible to watch,” Gordon said.
After clinching the Quakers' first NCAA Championship bid since 1995 last season and making the Quakers the first Ivy League team to start postseason play with two wins since the NCAA went to a four-team regional format in 1999, Yurkow is quickly establishing Penn as a top program in the country.
“It is really amazing to see year in year out; they're getting better and going further, and they have this amazingly talented group of individuals who are playing professionally and becoming big leaguers,” Bossart said. “It is such a cool thing to see, and how it's progressed even since my time there is amazing.”
Each of these players will be celebrated on Saturday, and their names will be added to a long list of other greats who came before them. This celebration also coincides with a period of overwhelming success for a program that is not slowing down.