On February 1st, the Richmond Flying Squirrels held their 2nd annual hot stove banquet. Last year's banquet was an astounding success, adding spirit to baseball fans in Richmond everywhere as they were treated with meeting baseball stars Darryl Strawberry, Tommy John and Billy Wagner.
This year, with Wagner returning and all proceeds going to his organization, the Second Chance Learning Center, it was yet another star studded lineup including Bill Buckner, who amassed over 2,700 hits in his career but is best known for an error in game six of the 1986 World Series that eventually led to the Mets being victorious in seven games and Vida Blue, a former pitcher who was simply dominant during his time in Oakland in the 70s, who won 210 career games and won both Cy Young and MVP honors in 1971. He is one of ten pitchers in baseball history to complete that feat, with the last being Goochland, VA native Justin Verlander who won both awards just last season.
Also on hand were Meadowbrook High school alums Johnny Grubb and Cla Meredith. Grubb, played outfield for 16 years in the majors, gained an All-Star appearance in 1974 and won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 1984. Meredith, a pitcher that rose to the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox and enjoyed successful seasons with the San Diego Padres, has fallen on injury problems with his elbow. While currently rehabbing, he hopes to catch on with a team later this season. Last year, the Washington Nationals signed him to a contract, but he was released after re-aggravating the injury.
Grubb was impressed with how the Squirrels have done things so far.
"It's impressive the way it's done here," said Grubb. "This organization does the right thing, they have reached out and are doing everything they can to accommodate the fans."
While Grubb has the opportunity to play all over the country as a major-leaguer, he still calls Chester home, as does Meredith.
"My wife and I are from this area," said Grubb. "We have everything we need here, including our family, we love this area."
The Flying Squirrels will open the season on the road on April 5th at New Britain. They will kick off the home slate on April 12th, vs. Altoona, the start of a seven game home stand.
More information on the upcoming season can be found at www.minorleaguebaseball.com.