Florida Governor’s Baseball Dinner to celebrate 100 years of Pinellas spring training

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Gov. Rick Scott celebrates a century of Pinellas County Spring Training Baseball by hosting a February event at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays.   

St. Petersburg will take home field advantage for the 2014 Governor’s Baseball Dinner on Thursday, February 13 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

This year, the Governor’s Dinner commemorates 100 years of Major League Baseball’s springtime ritual, a tradition eagerly awaited by both players and fans. During February and March, Florida’s Grapefruit League hosts 15 Major League Baseball teams, when more than 1.5 million fans attend spring training games throughout the state.

Proceeds of the event go to the Florida Sports Foundation, which supports the state’s nine professional sports teams and Florida’s $36 billion sports industry.

In 1914, the St. Louis Browns became the first Major League Baseball team to head to Pinellas County. The following year, avid baseball fan Al Lang convinced his hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies, to train locally.

The Phillies’ appearance turned Lang into a local hero.

An appreciative and enthusiastic city made Lang — namesake of Al Lang Stadium (now Progress Energy Stadium) – a two-term St. Petersburg mayor. During those years of service, Lang started another St. Pete tradition — the city’s iconic green benches.

Over the next several decades, eight professional teams played in Pinellas at one time or another: Browns, Phillies, Boston Braves, New York Yankees, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Cardinals practiced in St. Pete for almost 60 seasons, making them the longest lasting franchise in the region to date.

Throughout the heyday of Pinellas spring training, teams brought home a combined 19 World Series titles.

The county continues to be the official spring home to two MLB teams — the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater and the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.

At 6:00 p.m. February 13, the Governor’s Dinner will begin with cocktails and a silent auction. Dinner — with a program featuring impressionist Frank Caliendo — starts at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets start at $75, with a table for eight available for $1,500. Priority seating for eight will set donors back $2,500.

Table reservations and tickets are available online or by mail to the Florida Sports Foundation at 2930 Kerry Forest Parkway, Suite 101, Tallahassee, FL 32309 (ATTN: Governor’s Baseball Dinner)

 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.