Baseball dinner rings in the start of Florida’s 2020 spring training season

Special to the Outlook

NORTH PORT – FAMU was center stage at the governor’s annual Baseball Dinner held last Friday at CoolToday Park in North Port, where former Rattler Andre Dawson was honored.

Gov. Ron DeSantis joined baseball fans from across the state at the event that signals the start of the spring training season in Florida. 

“This dinner is an important part of the baseball calendar as it signifies the start of another season in the Sunshine State,” said DeSantis. “I was pleased to host this event again this year as well as pay tribute to Miami native Andre Dawson, a great ambassador for the game and for our state. I look forward to another successful season for the Grapefruit League players and fans.”

This year’s Florida Grapefruit League season began last Saturday. The season concludes March 24. 

The tribute to Dawson was one of the highlights. After graduating from Southwest Miami Senior High School, Dawson starred at FAMU and later had a 21-year professional career with the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins. He was named the 1977 Rookie of the Year, the 1987 National League MVP and was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Dawson was joined onstage by FAMU President Larry Robinson and DeSantis, who called Dawson “the Major League’s best player to come out of Florida A&M and the State of Florida.”

Spring Training brings an economic impact of nearly $687 million and 7,152 jobs to the state.

FAMU President Larry Robinson (left) presents a trophy to former Rattler Andre Dawson at this year’s Governor’s Baseball Dinner.
Photo by Florida Sports Foundation

“Having the Grapefruit League in the Sunshine State, where 15 of Major League Baseball’s teams call home in 12 cities, truly allows the world to ‘come play in Florida.”

Welcoming the crowd to CoolToday Park and the 2020 season were Michael Moran, Chair of the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners, Debbie McDowell, Mayor of the City of North Port, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Players and coaches from the Venice High School Indians, winners of the last two Class 7A FHSAA State Baseball Championships, were presented with the Governor’s Sports Award.

The 2019 World Series Champions, the Washington Nationals, were honored along with the American League Champions, the Houston Astros.  It was the third consecutive year, a Florida-based Spring Training team has been honored as the previous season’s champion.  Also receiving recognition were four 2019 league division winners, the Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred also held his annual Florida Spring Training Media Day at CoolToday Park prior to the dinner with Managers and General Managers from all 15 teams holding their annual spring training in the state.

“I always love this event because it means the beginning of another season is right around the corner,” Manfred said.

Visit for schedules of all 15 teams in Florida and a daily schedule of games.