With the first pitch of the 2011 Georgia Southern baseball season just two weeks away, the excitement of another year got rolling Friday night at “An Evening with the All-Stars” which was held at the Nessmith-Lane Ballroom and featured Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves and Jonathan Broxton of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Eagle fans were treated to dinner, while GSU baseball play-by-play man Ryan Chambers hosted a question and answer session with Jones and Broxton on their experiences in professional baseball.
Friday’s dinner was the first of its kind for GSU baseball, but after drawing a capacity crowd, Eagle coach Rodney Hennon hopes that it will become a tradition.
“We really weren’t sure exactly what to expect,” said Hennon. “This all came together on a little bit of short notice, but we had a lot of help and support. Of course, we’re thankful to Chipper and Jonathan for coming here, and overall I think it was a great success.”
Although Jones and Broxton are among the elite players in the National League — Jones is a six-time All-Star and was the N.L. Most Valuable Player in 1999 while Broxton has been on the All-Star team each of the last two seasons — both still value the origins of their respective careers near the southeast Georgia area.
Jones played his high school ball in Jacksonville before the Braves selected him with the first pick of the 1990 draft and Broxton starred for Burke County before becoming a second-round draft pick. Jones has spent his entire career close to home in Atlanta, but Broxton admitted that his new Hollywood home is a far cry from his Georgia upbringing.
Both went on to talk about the hopes of their respective teams for the upcoming season and joked with each other about their two career run-ins with each other on the diamond — Broxton walked Jones in their first meeting before striking him out the second time around.
Jones and Broxton helped to fill the seats, but the GSU faithful in attendance greatly contributed to the baseball Eagles with their contributions for various items that were held up for auction.
“I am very grateful for all of the support shown by our fans,” said Hennon. “Not only did they help us out with some generous bidding on items, but many helped in finding or donating some of the items. There were a few things in there that I wish I could have walked out with.”
Among items sold in the silent auction were jerseys autographed by former Eagle and current member of the Kansas City Royals’ system Everett Teaford and former Brave Jeff Francouer, a bat signed by both Jones and Broxton, footballs signed by Joe Montana and Troy Aikman, a Nolan Ryan signed baseball and rookie card, and an issue of Sports Illustrated featuring — and signed by — Willie Mays.
At the conclusion of the dinner and speaking, a live auction was held for three additional items. A game in Jones’ personal V.I.P. suite, a game in the Clements Stadium luxury box, and four seats behind home plate at a Braves game helped to bring in almost four thousand dollars more that will be used to help the Eagle baseball program.
The Eagles start the season Friday, February 18 with a three-game series against George Washington before hosting perennial power Georgia Tech the following week.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.