MACON, Ga. - Mercer baseball head coach Craig Gibson announced that former Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy will serve as the featured speaker for the fifth annual First Pitch Classic to be held on February 13, 2013.
The event serves as a kick-off to the Mercer baseball team's 2013 season and will be held in the University Center. The dinner begins at 7 p.m. on the main arena floor, preceded by an autograph session in the Presidents Dining Room starting at 6:00 p.m.
This year's banquet is being sponsored by Macon Occupational Medicine and is also the fourth time that an Atlanta Braves player has come to speak at the Classic. In 2009, former Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur came to Macon for the inaugural celebration of the event, former Braves hurler John Smoltz headlined the affair in 2011 and iconic Braves third baseman Chipper Jones was featured in last year's affair.
"What an honor it is to be able to host one of the all-time greats in Major League Baseball history in Dale Murphy," Gibson said. "Dale is a true statesman to the game of baseball for the way he played the game on the field and with the way he conducted himself away from the diamond."
An 18-year Major League Baseball veteran and one of the true gentlemen of the game, Murphy is one of just five players in the history of the Atlanta Braves organization to have his number retired, joining Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, Warran Spahn, and Phil Niekro. Drafted by the Braves in the first round of the 1974 MLB Draft, Murphy worked his way through the Braves minor league system and made his major league debut in 1976. All Murphy did from that point forward was become the youngest player in MLB history to win back-to-back MVP awards (1982 and 1983), earn seven trips to the MLB All-Star game and win four Silver Slugger awards and five Gold Gloves. Murphy finished his illustrious career when he retired from the game in 1993 with a .265 batting average, 398 home runs and 1,266 RBI. Noted just as much for his work off the field than on it, Murphy was the recipient of many noteworthy honors for his work in the community including the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, the Roberto Clemente Award and the 1987 Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year Award.
"I am sure Dale will have a great message to send to our kids and young adults about what it is to be a professional, what responsibilities it entails and what high standards you have to hold yourself up to day after day," said Gibson. "I can't think of anyone better than Dale to have at our dinner and what a night it is going to be to help kick off our 2013 Mercer baseball season."
Tickets for the autograph session and the dinner are sold as separate events. Tickets for the autograph session are $50 per person and are limited to the first 100 participants, while tickets for the dinner are $75 per person. All proceeds benefit the Mercer baseball program.