ARLINGTON -- Before more than 100 UT Arlington baseball supporters, UTA President James Spaniolo looked at San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence to fill him in on what his accomplishments meant to a growing program."Our hearts swelled with pride when you hit that sacrifice fly, but I have to admit that my heart was a little torn," he said. "Born and raised in Michigan, the [Detroit] Tigers were always my team."A roar of laughter erupted as Pence, whose Giants beat Detroit in the World Series last year, sheepishly chuckled during UTA's annual First Pitch Banquet at the Diamond Club at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The event Saturday night celebrated the sense of family the program has been building."Athletics is a great part of our university, and we're on our way to having a tier one athletics program, and nothing exemplifies that more than our baseball team," Spaniolo said.Pence spoke to current and former players, mothers, fathers and children dead-set on hearing what the World Series champion had to say about working his way to the top after playing collegiately at UTA."There's no one path that everyone takes to succeed," he said. "At the end of the day, if you want to accomplish success, you have to make the decision that it's about effort."From attempting to describe his emotion after winning the World Series to telling one child that he had yellow batting gloves because he wanted to be like Rickey Henderson growing up, Pence held his audience captive. Once he was finished, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.Pence wasn't the only champion in the room, but he wasn't one of the lucky ones to receive a championship ring on Saturday.Last season's UTA baseball team took the Southland Conference crown for the final time before jumping to the Western Athletic Conference for this season, which begins Feb. 15. Coach Darin Thomas handed out rings to his players from last year, but not without noting that "[they] got the last laugh and now all those [other] programs can't get [them] back."With Rangers Ballpark renovations in full swing below the Diamond Club, the UTA baseball program worked on building a lasting legacy. By bringing back its notable alumni -- including Pence and current Los Angeles Dodgers bench coach Trey Hillman -- the program made strides in proving that UTA isn't just a jumping off point for aspiring major leaguers, but a lifelong family."Congratulations, Hunter, from a Dodger to a Giant," Hillman said. "But it's so much easier to say that when we're both UT Arlington Mavericks."With a slew of former Mavericks in professional baseball in the first two rows, Hillman reminded them that this program is growing again because of the dedication that Spaniolo and athletic director Jim Baker have shown in building a new hitting facility the program desperately needed.In wrapping up his brief remarks, Hillman made one directive to Pence and the other professional Maverick players in the banquet's attendance."Guys, this is on our off-season calendars every year. We're not going to miss it."