Former Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy summed it up best as he entertained the crowd of 300 at the 2016 Governor’s Baseball Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Lee County.
“The best family vacation is Spring Training Baseball in Florida,” said Dale Murphy.
He should know as the father of eight children, many of whom attended spring training in Florida growing up when Murphy attended Braves spring training in West Palm Beach and Phillies spring training in Clearwater.
Now an alumni player who returns to the Braves camps on an annual basis, he told a humbling story from a few years ago. After signing an autograph for a young fan he heard ask his father, “Who is that guy?”
The father told his son he was a great former Braves player, much like Chipper Jones was at the time. The young fan then asked his father, “Wow. Do you think he could go into the locker room and get Chipper Jones’ autograph for me?”
After hearing many young fans ask about his accomplishments that include back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player Awards, he now just tells them, “Just Google me.”
Prior to Murphy, the crowd was entertained by a six-member panel discussion (pictured below left to right) featuring Minnesota Twins radio broadcaster Dick Bremer, Boston Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski, Philadelphia Phillies President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, Red Sox Manager John Farrell, Twins Manager Paul Molitor and Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione had a combined baseball experience of nearly 200 years.
Castiglione told the audience of a meeting between Farrell and Molitor had a meeting during their baseball careers neither will forget. Farrell, making only his second major league start in 1987, as a member of the Cleveland Indians, held Molitor hitless in four at-bats to end Molitor’s 39-game hitting streak–the fifth-longest this century and the seventh-longest ever.
Farrell turned to Molitor and said, “Things went in different directions for us after that. You went on to a Hall of Fame career and I had two Tommy John surgeries.”
The Red Sox manager confirmed what many have said in the past about Florida’s climate being a plus when it comes to pre-season conditioning. “The humidity here in Florida is more conducive to getting guys in shape for a long season than in Arizona.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred once again attended the Governor’s Baseball Dinner, an annual celebration of the start of the Florida Spring Training season and addressed the media at Florida Media Day. He hopes to make the Media Day an annual occasion with personnel from the 15 teams in Florida.
His topics ranged from the designated hitter in both leagues, the game’s effort to appeal to a younger fan base, fan safety, increasing the speed of the game and a few topics involving the Florida Grapefruit League.
“I like the equilibrium of having 15 teams in Florida and 15 in Arizona. Over the last few years, several stadiums here have created some great fan experiences. Governor Rick Scott has been very helpful in getting funding in place for these stadiums. It’s a very comfortable equilibrium with 15 teams in each location.”
The Commissioner also noted the equilibrium of keeping Florida Spring Training alive on both coasts of the State with the addition of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in 2017. “It’s a great thing to have a sufficient number of teams on each coast so a lot of travel is not involved.”
It’s always a treat when teams bring other alumni members to the dinner and in attendance was former Boston Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant, Minnesota Twins fan favorite Tony Oliva, and pitcher Bert Blyleven, who pitched for the Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates during his career.
The 2016 Florida Governor’s Baseball Dinner was hosted by the Florida Sports Foundation, in conjunction with Lee County Sports Development, The Beaches of Fort Myers-Sanibel, the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins. The 2017 Governor’s Baseball Dinner will be held in Lakeland to celebrate the completion of the renovations being made to Joker Marchant Stadium.