PORTSMOUTH – President of Portsmouth Murals Inc. Robert Morton began the event by announcing that the Wheelersburg LL softball team that won the 2018 LLSBWS in August, who were also special guests of the banquet, would receive their own mural along the floodwalls that reside in downtown Portsmouth.
Head coach of the team Dusty Salyers spoke to the crowd about what the honor meant to himself and the coaching staff, as well as the players as he proceeded to recognize each of the players on the World Champion team.
Family members of Branch and Frank Rickey were also in attendance, along with 2018 Greenup County graduate and 24th round pick in the 2018 MLB draft selected by the Kansas City Royals, Gage Hughes. Former major leaguers Al Oliver and Don Gullett were not in attendance due to a conflict of interest.
Despite the second straight no-show from former Cincinnati Reds pitcher and scheduled guest speaker, Tom Browning, the show went on. Morton announced that one of the 76 currently active MLB umpires, Greg Gibson, who was in attendance for the banquet, would be the guest speaker and replace Browning.
Gibson said that he would only do the speech if he was allowed to do it his way, and that way was a question and answer segment where those in attendance could ask Gibson a question they would ask an umpire if given the opportunity.
Before the speech devolved into the question and answer portion, Greg discussed a little bit about the life of a MLB umpire, talking almost directly to Hughes and the members of the Wheelersburg team.
He made it a point to let them know that they’re able to live out their dreams because of someone else’s sacrifice: whether it was coaches or parents, someone paid the price for them to be able to fulfill their dreams.
Once the question and answer segment began, questions about specific plays being described for Gibson’s opinion as an umpire, questions about the future of baseball in areas such as pace of play and female umpires, more questions about the life of an umpire, as well as general trivia questions about the game of baseball.
The event concluded with the finishing of Gibson’s speech and the ending of the silent auction which saw people win items such as a Ken Griffey Jr. signed bat, various Cincinnati Reds based wall décor, and other relevant baseball memorabilia.
One thing was certain following the Fifteenth Annual Portsmouth Murals Baseball Banquet on Wednesday night: Gene Bennett will be dearly missed.
Nearly everyone who spoke during the event lamented of Gene’s presence and involvement with the event’s past, as well as his involvement in the baseball and softball communities in Scioto County and the surrounding area, and that presence was felt throughout the ceremony on Wednesday night.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT