Bowling Green, Ky. — Former baseball student-athlete Paul Orberson has made a commitment of $500,000 as a lead gift toward construction of a Baseball Clubhouse at Western Kentucky University. In appreciation for this gift, WKU will name the facility the Paul C. Orberson Clubhouse.
WKU Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig said the Baseball Clubhouse, which will be built adjacent to Nick Denes Field and be linked to the indoor batting facility, will complete the total transformation of WKU’s baseball complex into a premier on-campus baseball facility. “The clubhouse project will allow for all WKU coaches, student-athletes, trainers, and program support personnel to be housed literally on site at the baseball complex,” Selig said.
Selig said the clubhouse will feature a spacious locker room, player lounge, coaches’ offices, a lounge area for the players and coaches, laundry area, and storage areas.
“Paul Orberson has set quite an example for all former WKU student-athletes for giving back in appreciation of the opportunities and benefits received as a student and an athlete at WKU,” Selig said. “The Paul C. Orberson Clubhouse will benefit generations of future WKU baseball student-athletes and help us in our efforts to continue to grow our program in national stature. We will be forever grateful for Paul’s vision and support for WKU and WKU baseball.”
Head coach Chris Finwood agreed. “The generous gift that Paul has made to our baseball program will allow us to continue to transform Nick Denes field into a top-notch collegiate baseball complex that is on par with some of the best facilities in the region,” he said. “The Paul C. Orberson Clubhouse will have a tremendous impact on potential student-athletes and current Hilltopper baseball players, and it will allow our coaching staff to better utilize our time and resources. As a former player, Paul continues to show the spirit that makes this such a special institution, and we look forward to working every day in a building with his name on it. We are doing our very best to make our baseball program one in which we can all take pride.”
Orberson, who graduated from WKU in 1979 with a degree in history, came to the Hill in the fall of 1974 on a full baseball scholarship. “I was grateful for the scholarship, because it was the only way I could have gone to school,” Orberson explained. “My father was a pastor at a small church in Danville, and my parents didn’t have a lot of money. My ACT scores were low, but WKU gave me a shot, and I will always be grateful for that.”
He would end up leading the team in earned run average twice, posting a 2.14 mark in 1976 as well as a 2.19 ERA in ’78. He also led WKU with eight victories and 78 innings pitched his senior season, both school records at the time, while earning first-team all-Ohio Valley Conference honors in 1977 (as a designated hitter after batting .323 with 23 RBI and 23 runs) and ’78 (as a pitcher, when he also struck out a career-high 64 hitters).
Orberson still is tied for third on the school’s all-time record list with 12 complete games, which set a WKU standard at the conclusion of his four-year career.
Tongue in cheek, Orberson told the story of how he went from a poor college student, who helped provide for his wife and child with food stamps, to one of Excel Telecommunications’ top representatives. “First of all, I wanted to be a Major League baseball player, but they didn’t want me,” he said with a laugh. “I wanted to go to law school, but I did poorly on the LSAT. Plan three was to teach school and coach, and I was able to do that for 13 years.”
Orberson had planned to work his 27 years for the school system, retire, and find something else to occupy his time. However, things didn’t turn out that way. One day his assistant school superintendent asked him to attend a business presentation for Excel Telecommunications, a long-distance, wireless, and data services provider. He decided to give the business a shot and began working part-time for Excel.
“When I first started out, I didn’t make any money, but something inside me still dreamed,” Orberson said. “I had always wanted to be ‘that person’ who was able to help his pastor, his church, and his community. I wanted to be that ‘go to’ person. I worked hard, and after a couple of years I started making some money. With the good Lord’s blessings, I was able to retire at age 39.”
But retirement wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Orberson wanted to do something new, so after four-and-a-half years of retirement, he started Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing. That company has grown to employ 60 full-time employees — including Paul’s son, Jeffrey — and 100,000 active representatives.
He said it was an easy decision to give back to WKU because of the University’s leadership. “It’s so easy to do, because you see the excitement everyone has at WKU,” he said. “It’s contagious, and I want to be a part of that. I believe in the leadership, in Dr. Wood Selig and Dr. Gary Ransdell. In fact, I wish Gary would come and work for me!”
He also has a more personal reason behind his desire to give back. Just a few years ago, Orberson was told he had cancer and had just months to live. Beating the odds, he worked with a research doctor, is doing well today, and hasn’t been back to the doctor in four years.
“My life can’t be accounted for except by God carefully leading me through it and directing my steps,” he said. “How else can you account for somebody like me being where I am in life, except by God’s grace? Every day is just a gift. When I got off my butt and worked, it was amazing what God was able to do. What we become is all because of our experiences and the people we meet who shape us. WKU was definitely a part of my story, and I firmly believe that the more you give away, the more you get in return.”