2018 Governor’s Baseball Dinner Returns to Tampa Bay Area
The 2018 Governor’s Baseball Dinner returned to the Tampa Bay area with a host of local support, from homegrown baseball players, to recognizable community leaders, to a soothing radio voice who has described the scenes from the Dinner venue for the last 14 years. CLICK HERE for video highlights of the evening.
The 58th Governor’s Baseball Dinner was held on the outfield turf of Tropicana Field, Thursday, February 15, with over 350 guests seated at more than 40 tables. CLICK HERE for video highlights of the evening.
Due to the tragic circumstances that occurred in Parkland, the day before the Dinner, Governor Rick Scott was unable to attend.
FSF Board of Directors Chairman of the Board, Jesse Biter, of Sarasota, welcomed the guests informing them of the long history of Florida Spring Training Baseball. He referred to the players and teams of the early 1900s as, “Florida’s original snowbirds.”
Tampa Bay Rays radio play-by-play voice, Dave Wills, served as the emcee for the festivities of the evening and led the program through a handful of speakers, including Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, video presentations and awards to teams from the Florida Grapefruit League who advanced into the post season.
Commissioner Manfred proclaimed the day of the Governor’s Baseball Dinner one of his favorite days of the year, “not only because of the dinner but it means we’re once again playing baseball.”
Following the procession of speakers, dinner on Tropicana Field and plenty of baseball talk, Florida Spring Training’s five post-season teams from 2017 were recognized. Lee County and Palm Beach County combined to produce four of the five teams as the Lee County teams, the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins received awards and Palm Beach County’s Washington Nationals and Houston Astros took the stage to pick up the awards. The New York Yankees also received an award.
Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow accepted a Crystal Cup filled with grapefruit from FSF Board Chair Jesse Biter and President Angela Suggs. Luhnow said the Cup will be fine addition to the trophy case at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach.
Florida Sports Hall of Fame President Barry Smith, who told the crowd while he caught a few touchdown passes in the NFL, he wished he could have hit a curve ball and played Major League Baseball. He then introduced the four Florida baseball legends, who were successful with the curve ball, to the stage to talk some spring training baseball and experiences on the diamond.
Tampa native Tino Martinez, Winter Park native Davey Johnson, Tampa Bay Rays teammates, Fred McGriff and Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, combined 66 years of Major League playing experience and played in 23 All-Star games and won nine World Series rings.
Boggs told the crowd about his introduction to Martinez after Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly decided to retire. New York acquired Martinez, a Jefferson HS graduate who attended the University of Tampa, before his Major League career, as Mattingly’s replacement. Boggs begrudgingly accepted Martinez as a teammate after his long-time friend decided to retire, but reaped the benefits of a 1996 World Series Championship, with Martinez occupying one of the Yankees hot corners.
One of only a handful of players to win championships as a player and manager, 75-year old Davey Johnson, recalled some names of players only known to the some of the most knowledgeable baseball fans in attendance. Johnson learned the ropes from Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Bill Mazeroski and Hank Aaron. He also had the opportunity to play alongside Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh.
Since it was rejuvenated in 2008, the Governor’s Baseball Dinner has been a reminder to baseball fans that Major League Baseball players from 15 teams will be returning to the field in Florida soon for another season where teams begin their journey to a World Series Championships, like the Houston Astros did in West Palm Beach in February of 2017.