May 8, 2014
By Dan Forcella
+ Citronaut Central
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - When the UCF baseball team takes the field on Saturday against Presbyterian, they won't do it as Knights. For one day they will be the Citronauts.
Saturday's Citronaut Day featuring NASA's Kennedy Space Center will serve as a salute to the school's first unofficial mascot, the Citronaut. Back in 1968, this character with the body of an orange and the head of an astronaut appeared on the cover of the first student handbook of Florida Technological University, UCF's original name.
The Citronaut will be celebrated for the first time in over 40 years, and due to its relationship with the University - and its obvious ties to the astronaut-like character - NASA will be an educational partner for the event.
Throwing out the first pitch on Saturday will be UCF alumnus and Associate Director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center Kelvin Manning. Manning earned an M.S. in engineering management from UCF in 2002, and he couldn't be more proud to return to campus for the event.
I heard about it at work. I got word from our public affairs office that UCF was going to do this Citronaut Day, Manning said. I am ecstatic, but there is always that pressure with throwing out a first pitch. You can't one-hop it, and you can't throw it over the guy's head.
Luckily, Manning has experience. When he took the mound at a Brevard County Manatees game, he threw it square over the plate, so he'll be looking for that same type of success on Saturday.
Taking part in Citronaut Day at the school where he earned his master's degree will make the moment that much more special for Manning.
UCF is an amazing place, Manning went on to say about his alma mater. It's great to see it growing and really coming into its own. I always follow [the athletics teams], especially with all the success the football team had this season in winning the Fiesta Bowl.
When it comes to baseball though, Manning has one claim to fame that he always enjoys joking about. He went to high school with Cal Ripken Jr. My friends and I would tell everyone that I was the one who taught Ripken how to play through pain, Manning said with a laugh.
Hopefully Saturday's first pitch will be painless.