The baseball team held its 9th annual Step Up to the Plate dinner and fundraiser this past Saturday at JPJ. Everyone needed an opportunity to see a winning team in JPJ and the baseball team gave them that chance (What? Too soon? Too hateful?). Former MLB manager and current ESPN Sunday Night Baseball announcer Bobby Valentine headlined this year's dinner that brought out more than 700 fans of the Cavalier Baseball team. As with the 8 previous years, the patrons were treated to not only a terrific speech and the opportunity to get autographs from the guest of honor, they also got to meet and greet with this year's baseball team.
As in previous years, the night began with the Cavalier Baseball team seated and ready to greet and sign autographs for anyone and everyone who wanted one. Less than 10 minutes after the doors opened it looked like the line was about 200 people deep for a bunch of 21 year olds. Whoever tried to end the baseball team 12 years ago needs to come to this dinner and see the way the Charlottesville community is turning out for this team now. The silent auction that coincided with the autograph session is always a highlight for myself. The framed and autograph prints that equipment manager Chris Moore had created were impressive. Also up for auction was memorabilia from former Hoo legends such as Sean Doolittle, Phil Gosselin, Javy Lopez, Mark Reynolds, Ryan Zimmerman as well as other UVa sport stars Tiki and Ronde Barber, Chris Long, and others.
After the autograph session, Coach O'Connor introduced the entire team and gave a brief update on the offseason workouts and the hunger that the team has due to the disappointment from how last year ended. Some of the highlights from the Iron Cavalier challenge were shown and the winners(Shane Halley and Tyler Wilson) were announced.
The highlight of the night for myself was getting to hear Bobby Valentine speak. "Bobby V." shared some of the highs and lows he had from his career as well as shared some interesting stories about everything from Rickey Henderson to giving signs in the MLB. The main emphasis of Bobby's speech was that everyone has fear in life. The way we overcome that fear is through practicing those fearful situations. He ended with reminding the players and everyone in attendance to keeping three R's when going through life: responsibility, reality, and respect.