“You tend to go where your kids are,” said Joanne Graham. “So that’s what we did.”
For she and husband Patrick Graham, that meant going to the baseball field — and to UC Santa Barbara, where their sons Andy ’06 and Alex ’09 both pitched for the Gauchos.
Andy went first, arriving at UCSB in 2002.
“I got on campus as a freshman and I could see how desperately improvements were needed at the stadium,” he recalled. “My parents came to all the games and they saw that too — and they wanted to make life better out there for the people who are at that stadium every day.”
And so they did.
Seeing firsthand the boon that improved baseball facilities would be for the campus, the Grahams swung for the fences and scored. They were key players in the additions of both a clubhouse and a batting facility at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
“The nice reaction of the kids to the first project led us to the second one,” said Patrick, a minority owner of the San Diego Padres and past UC Santa Barbara Foundation Trustee. “Alex’s group of friends was the first to get to enjoy the batting facility. Finally things that other baseball programs had long been able to take for granted UCSB had, too.
“If you’re going to have an athletics department, support it, just like you support chemistry or engineering or political science – it’s the same principle,” he added. “And that’s been our focus. There’s a significant amount of school pride that athletics produces and that shouldn’t be underestimated.”
The younger Grahams came away from UCSB with a lot more than pride.
Andy earned his degree in political science, was recruited by the Colorado Rockies and played six years in the minor leagues. He later returned to campus and worked for athletics, meeting wife Larissa along the way. Alex received a bachelor of arts in global studies while playing Gaucho baseball, then went on to start his own business; his best friend from UCSB introduced him to his now-wife Katie, whose brother is also an alum.
“People say this all the time but it’s the best four years of your life — and that was definitely the case,” said Andy. “It’s always going to be a special place for us.”
Joanne and Patrick Graham get significant credit for that, and could say the same themselves.
“Our philosophy has always been — and we have espoused this with our kids numerous times — do something you feel will make a difference,” Joanne said. “Once you define what it is you want to give to, make sure what you do makes a difference to that organization. That’s what we hope to accomplish as a family.”
“And it turned out that baseball was the path,” added Patrick. “There is a selfishly motivated reason to do something like this: You get a lot of satisfaction from it. For generations those facilities are going to accommodate lots of kids. And it feels good to say, ‘I made a difference in what I did for the school.’”