PORTSMOUTH — While Wednesday’s 16th annual Portsmouth Murals Baseball Banquet was taking place, former President of Portsmouth Murals Inc. Bob Morton smiled down at the event his peers had organized.
This year’s Murals Banquet was the first since the 26-year Portsmouth Murals Inc. president passed away in April — as his memory was remembered by those who took the microphone.
“Where would we be if Bob (Morton) weren’t such a visionary himself?..” Now Murals Inc. President Chris Lute reflected. “This banquet was established to celebrate the past, present, and future of baseball in our area … We all miss him very much. Anyone who met him knew how committed he was to new ideas.”
Lute also shared a clip from a Cincinnati Reds game during the 2019 season in which FOX Sports Ohio broadcaster Chris Welsh shared his condolences to the Morton family and discussed what impact Morton, alongside Gene Bennett, made with their uplifting of local baseball.
Notable figures in attendance for the 16th installment of the banquet included Reds general manager Nick Krall, MLB umpire Greg Gibson, former MLB pitcher Don Gullett, former MLB catcher Johnny Stephenson, members of the Branch Rickey family, and Greenup County graduate and member of the Kansas City Royals organization Gage Hughes.
Hall of Fame Broadcaster Marty Brennaman was the guest speaker at this year’s banquet, a promise he fulfilled after Gibson stopped him following a Reds game in Arizona last September near the end of Brennaman’s famed career.
“I’m here because Greg (Gibson) asked, but I’m also here for Gene (Bennett) and Bob (Morton)…” Brennaman said. “I’m in awe of what a baseball community this is … I don’t know if you can find a community in this country that has the baseball legacy or history this town has.”
The newly retired broadcaster ended his speech with a Q&A session.
Also recognized at Wednesday’s banquet were Greenup County, Ky. Native Paul Archey and Paintsville, Ky. native Johnnie LeMaster.
Archey, a graduate of Greenup County High School, was once the senior Vice President of Major League Baseball and whose notable accolades include the creation of the World Baseball Classic. Archey is now the Chief Commercial Officer of JMI Sports, a media broadcasting company servicing the University of Kentucky and other institutions.
“Being sandwiched between a 10-year veteran and a Hall of Fame broadcaster is the easiest speaking position..,” Archey joked. “With a lot of pride, I’ve represented baseball in general, but I’ve also tried to represent baseball from our area.”
LeMaster, a 12-year MLB veteran while playing most of his career for the San Fransisco Giants, also coached collegiately for Pikeville College (now the University of Pikeville) and more recently Ashland Paul Blazer HS in Kentucky. LeMaster lived the first year of his life in Portsmouth before his family moved to Paintsville where he would grow up.
“Wow, I’m going on the flood-wall, baby …,” LeMaster said with-a-grin. “I’ve received a lot of honors and awards in my life, but this one means the most.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved