Saturday night at the National Civil War Museum, the Harrisburg Senators hosted their inaugural Hot Stove Dinner. For many in the crowd it was an opportunity to get together with friends on a cold January night and talk baseball. The big turnout could rub shoulders with players like Steve Lombardozzi and Adam Fox, win a raffle prize or auction bid, and listen to Nationals’ manager Jim Riggleman and Senators’ skipper Tony Beasley talk about the upcoming season.
But something else happened unexpectedly during the course of the evening. The Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program and everything they represent became the centerpiece as each speaker delivered moving and heartfelt reminders of the night’s beneficiary.
Team President Kevin Kulp called the dinner a continuation of increased efforts between the Nationals and Senators in “reaching out to the community.” Riggleman spoke fondly of his old Arkansas Travelers’ teammate and RBI founder John Young and how he eschewed executive positions inside MLB to instead make a difference bringing baseball back to the youth in America’s inner cities. Beasley recalled his history with the organization in Pittsburgh and how his job is still about building relationships and impacting young men.
But the highlight of the night for many (including me) was when Harrisburg’s senior RBI coach Rob Martin took the microphone. He spoke passionately about the positive role the program plays in the lives of these young men, what it means to become a team, and that it matters more in baseball and in life how you react after an error. He shared the spotlight with his young players in attendance and pleaded for a monument to be built in Harrisburg RBI founder Aaron Johnson’s honor. He summed up his feelings best when he invoked a quote from the movie Gettysburg, “What we’re fighting for, in the end…we’re fighting for each other.”
All in all, it was a great night for the Senators and Harrisburg.
A Deserving Honor
Only listed as a mysterious “Special Presentation” in the night’s events, General Manager Randy Whitaker announced the creation of the Art Mattingly Dedication Award and a new plaque that will hang in the dugout to honor the Senators’ long time bus driver. Mattingly spoke lovingly of his years of service and his affection for the players, “I’ve treated them like my sons, and I hope they’ve looked up to me like a father.”
A Surprising Anthem
I was clued in on this a day earlier, but many in the crowd were stunned at Beasley’s stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to kick off the event.
Coming to the ‘Burg
It was revealed for the first time publicly that the Central Pennsylvania area will host the RBI Regional Tournament this July with the championship games to be held at Metro Bank Park on City Island.
Quote of the Night
Tony Beasley on how he feels to be with the Nationals’ organization and Harrisburg – “I feel like I’m at home.”