Governor's Dinner Launches Spring Training
Photo/text by Renee Burrell
Pictured: Cal Ripken Jr. at podium, Marty Brennaman and Crist. Also seated at the head table, but not pictured, were: former player Fred McGriff; Major League Baseball President and Chief Operating Officer, Bob DuPuy; Hall of Famer Robin Roberts; and former player, coach and manager Don Zimmer, current senior advisor to the Tampa Bay Rays
ST. PETERSBURG - This year the spring training season began as 90 previous ones have throughout the state over the past century. On the night of February 26 Governor Charlie Crist honored Florida's home teams and the clubs that train here by reestablishing The Governor's Baseball Dinner that was discontinued a little over a decade ago.
When Crist announced his plans to reinstate the dinner he said, "Each spring, 18 major league teams bring baseball up close and personal to Florida's residents and visitors...Both culturally and economically, baseball is a cherished asset of our state, rich with history and excitement for fans of all ages. The Grapefruit League contributes to our state economy by generating a half-billion dollars each year and we are grateful to all the teams who call Florida home during spring training."
Two hundred representatives from the clubs attended the dinner along with twice as many fans. The voice of the Cincinnati Reds, Marty Brennaman, a broadcasting Hall of Famer served as Master of Ceremonies. On stage Crist presented Cal Ripken Jr. with a check from the night's proceeds to benefit The Cal Ripken Sr Foundation. The Foundation uses baseball and softball, taught "The Ripken Way," to give disadvantaged youth opportunities to succeed and learn character development through the sport.
The evening ended with a surprise speech from Bill Murray, Academy Award Nominee, Saturday Night Live alum and baseball enthusiast. Murray has an owning interest in the Fort Myers Miracle plus three other minor league teams. Born in Waukegon, Illinois, Murray is a dyed in the wool Chicago Cubs fan and reminded everyone there of it several times throughout his humorous speech, which promoted baseball in Florida.
"To me, the ark of the covenant, the holiest of holy places is wherever the Chicago Cubs are, yet I prefer spring training in Florida... I'm more familiar with the critters that you have down here in Florida. Out in the desert, who knows what things are? And nobody knows the antidote."?
Over the past century, almost every MLB team has trained in spring in Florida. Recently the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians announced their clubs will be leaving for Arizona.
If only the teams leaving Florida for Arizona would take actor and comic Bill Murray's advice. He said he prefers Florida over Arizona in spite of his favorite team training there
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