Governor’s Baseball Dinner tonight 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 an event tonight at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays.   

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)

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.