Saturday January 26, 2002Gator Baseball Hosts Alumni Weekend
Fifty-nine University of Florida baseball alums returned to campus Friday and Saturday for the annual Gator Baseball Alumni Weekend. Saturday featured two new events including a Home Run Derby for alumni and a Gator Legends Game featuring alumni vs. alumni competition from two eras- 1950's-1989 and 1990-2001.
The weekend kicked off Friday with a golf scramble at the newly renovated University of Florida Golf Course. Prizes were awarded Saturday to several winners including closest to the pin (John Fuller) and longest drive (Nick Belmonte). The winners included the trio of Rick Scarborough, John Fuller and Alan Chatman while John Blanton, John Chappell and Nick Belmonte took home second place honors.
The coaching staff hosted its first-ever Hitters Challenge Home Run Derby. Each batter had eight swings to amass a point total. Points were awarded on the following system: 6 points for a home run, 4 points for a shot hitting the wall, three points for a hit to the warning track, two points for a ball hit out of the infield and one point for a ball hit in the infield. Each decade had a champion as Don McCreary (11 points) captured the 1950-60's division, John Chappell and John Blanton (nine points each) tied for the 1970's crown, David Banes (24 points) won the 1980's title and Brad Wilkerson (21 points) earned the 1990's championship. David Banes was the overall winner with 24 points. Others also totaling over 20+ points included Dave Majeski (22 points), Chuck Hazzard (20 points), Jason Dill (20 points) and Brian Haught (20 points). Eddie Rojas was the only pitcher to hit a home run. Sunshine Network baseball announcer and former Gator baseball player Nick Belmonte and public address announcer Tom Collett provided color commentary for the derby.
Following the Home Run Derby, the alumni split into two teams and played an Orange and Blue contest. Players from the 1950-1989 era played the first three innings while the 1990-2001 era finished up the final four innings. The Orange squad won the game 3-2. Jeff Cardozo provided the game winning RBI when he broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth on a RBI single. James Eidam reached base when he was hit by pitch, Ted Rich followed with a single, Chris Wiggs' sacrifice fly drove in Eidam from third and Cardozo's single drove home Rich. The Blue squad grabbed a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Dave Majeski reached base on a single followed by Palmer Knight's two-RBI double and Jason Dill's two-RBI double. Radar guns did not exceed 75 miles per hour in the contest.
In addition, the Alumni gathered for a team photo on the field, the Gator Dugout Club provided an early morning brunch and each alum was treated to a tour of the Gator Baseball facilities. Prior to Saturday's festivities, Florida head coach Pat McMahon addressed the alumni. He discussed the importance of the alumni's involvement to the UF program and the plans he has for the UF baseball program.
Highlighting the list of the 59 alums included current Montreal Expos outfielder Brad Wilkerson, eight-year Major League veteran pitcher Doug Corbett two-time All America selection Perry McGriff and legendary Florida baseball coach Dave Fuller, who was honored with a No. 26 jersey prior to the Legends Game. Each Gator alum was also honored with a tee-shirt prior to the start of the Legends Game. Additionally, the Alumni were treated to a cookout following the Legends Game.
"It was a great weekend for all of our baseball alums," McMahon said. "We want our alumni to know how important they are to the University of Florida baseball program. They have made Florida baseball what it is and I'm honored to be a part of that tradition. We are already making plans for next season's event."
The 2002 Gators concluded the weekend with an Orange & Blue scrimmage. The Orange squad won a 13-11 contest. Outfielder Ben Harrison provided the game's highlight when he launched a shot off the batting cage roof in right centerfield which gave the Orange squad a 10-8 lead. Other standouts included outfielder David Klebonis (three-RBI home run and RBI single), catcher Brian Rose (two-RBI home run), Jonathan Tucker (RBI single, outstanding defensive play at shortstop) and first baseman Mario Garza (two-RBI double).
Florida opens its 2002 season Saturday by hosting Charleston Southern at noon. The game will be televised live on Sunshine Network.