ATLANTA--The Georgia State baseball team held its annual First Pitch Dinner, honoring academic achievement and outstanding contributions to the program, Thursday evening at Mary Mac's Tea Room.

The Panthers open the 2013 season Friday, hosting Butler at 4 p.m. at the GSU Baseball Complex in the first game of a three-game series.

Claudio Furgiuele, owner of Reuben's Deli, received a Panther Appreciation Award for his longtime support of the baseball program. Located near the Georgia State campus, Reuben's Deli has been voted the best deli in Atlanta and a top 10 deli in the U.S. Claudio will throw out the first pitch for Friday's season opener, and his daughter Serafina, a 2012 GSU graduate, will sing the national anthem.

Another Panther Appreciation Award was presented to Tony Burger, a former GSU baseball letterman who is now Chairman of Pritchard and Jerden, a risk management insurance firm. Burger is a past President of the Georgia State Alumni Association and a former trustee on the Georgia State Athletic Board.

Also receiving a Panther Appreciation Award was long-time Georgia State employee and ambassador McRae Williams. A track and field standout at Georgia State in the 1960s who still holds school records, Williams is a very active Panther Athletic Club member and supporter of GSU athletics.

Former Panther C.J. Stewart was recognized with the Professional Achievement Award. A GSU letterman in 1994-95, Stewart founded the LEAD (Launch-Expose-Advise-Direct) youth program in 2007. He annually hosts a camp at Turner Field for inner city youth.

Another former Panther, Brett Strickland, received the Inspiration Award. After pitching for the Panthers, Strickland was drafted in 2005 by the Colorado Rockies. He has overcome personal hardships as a single parent raising a young son.

Sophomore shortstop Caden Bailey was recognized for his selection to the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association All-Freshman team.

Each year, the First Pitch Dinner also recognizes the baseball team members who have earned academic honors:

3.0 GPA: Landon Anderson, Hunter Cash, Michael Lelko, Drew Shields

3.2 - 3.49 GPA (Athletic Director's Honor Roll): Ben Burns, Caleb Gore, Mark Hogan, Matt McCloskey, Chad Prain, Nic Wilson

3.5 - 3.99 GPA (Dean's List): Brantley Burton, James Clements, Andrew Fessler, Garrett Ford, Alex Prescott, Chase Raffield, Joey Roach

Senior pitcher Nick Squeglia earned the team's Highest GPA Award with a 4.0 and a spot on the President's List.

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